Ma Ying-jeou, former leader of Taiwan's main opposition party Kuomintang (KMT), pleaded not guilty to charges of corruption on the opening day of his trial in Taipei yesterday.
"I will face the charge with a plain and calm attitude. I have confidence in my innocence and put my faith in the justice of the court," Ma said just before entering the court in the morning.
As he entered, a crowd of his supporters gathered outside the court and were involved in skirmishes with supporters of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Former Kuomintang leader Ma Ying-jeou makes a statement to the press as he arrives at the district court house to stand trial on corruption charges in Taipei yesterday. AP
Ma said that as Taipei's mayor, he used the government's special allowance funds in line with the conventions the Taiwan authorities have followed since 1988 and he had never personally applied for reimbursement from the special funds, according to Taiwan media.
Earlier media reports have said that if Ma is found guilty, similar cases could result since his actions were similar to that of some 65,000 other government chiefs.
Special allowance funds are allocated by the Taiwan authorities to the executive officers at various levels in Taiwan. Official receipts are only required for half of the special allowance funds, while the spending of the other half only requires the signature of the official.
There's been no clear regulation concerning the expenditure of the special allowances. Last month, Tainan mayor Tsu Tain-tsair, a member of the ruling DPP, was acquitted after he was found to be involved in a similar case.
Taiwan prosecutors indicted Ma on charges of corruption on February 13, accusing him of diverting NT$11 million ($333,000) from Taipei mayor's special allowance funds to his private account during his tenure.
Ma resigned as KMT chairman after the indictment but immediately declared for the first time that he would run for the 2008 Taiwan leader election.
Taiwan prosecutors have also indicted Yu Wen, former secretary of the Taipei mayor's office, on charges of forgery and corruption.
(Xinhua News Agency April 4, 2007)