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Time not ripe for death penalty referendum: minister

2010/05/12 16:50:06

Taipei, May 12 (CNA) Justice Minister Tseng Yung-fu saidWednesday the time was not ripe for a referendum on whether toabolish capital punishment because public opinion leans heavilytoward maintaining the penalty.

Tseng added, however, that his ministry will respect theLegislative Yuan if it decides to push for a referendum.

Ruling Kuomintang Legislator Hsieh Kuo-liang, a convener of theLegislative Yuan's Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee,has proposed that the legislature launch a referendum initiative onthe death penalty.

Tseng was invited to the committee Wednesday to deliver a reporton the feasibility of holding such a referendum.

Citing the results of a survey conducted by his ministry inJanuary, Tseng said 74 percent of respondents were against the ideaof abolishing the death penalty and urged the legislators not to behasty in issuing a referendum initiative.

The minister added that he would not oppose to a referendum ifthe numbers of supporters and opponents of the death penalty becomemore comparable in the future.

According to Tseng, an independent referendum would cost NT$900million (US$28 million) , while holding one simultaneously with anelection would cost NT$300 million.

The issue gained attention recently following the resignation offormer Justice Minister Wang Ching-feng in March amid controversytriggered by her refusal to sign execution warrants.

The unannounced execution of four death row inmates on April 30-- the nation's first executions since December 2005 -- broughtcondemnation from the European Union and anti-death penalty groups.

Tseng said Wednesday the executions were completely lawful andthat the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has conveyed the government'sposition on the matter to the European Union.

The execution of death row inmates will continue despite the row,he said.

(By Y.F. Low)