Taipei, May 21 (CNA) Special prosecutors indicted former President Chen Shui-bian on Monday for illegally seizing confidential government documents, just the latest in series of charges facing the scandal-prone politician who is already jailed for corruption.
Chen was indicted on the charge of violating the Classified National Security Information Protection Act, prosecutors with the Special Investigation Division (SID) under the Supreme Prosecutors Office said.
Because Chen never released any of the documents to the public, however, prosecutors recommended that the court give the former president a relatively lighter sentence proportionate to the crime.
According to the indictment, Chen allegedly ordered close aides to pack and transport important documents from national security agencies and National Defense and Foreign Affairs ministries to his personal office in Taipei after the March presidential election in 2008, when Chen's Democratic Progressive Party was voted out of power.
Prosecutors said that after searches, inspectors discovered Chen had taken more than 17,000 documents, 3,419 of which were classified.
Based on the evidence, SID inspectors then questioned people linked to the case 43 times and Chen himself at Taipei Prison, where the former president has been serving a 17.5-year sentence for corruption since late 2010.
While Chen told prosecutors he did not know how his aides handled the documents and that as president he had the right to destroy them, prosecutors said in the indictment it was against the law for him not to return the documents to where they came from after leaving office on May 20, 2008.
The prosecutors alleged that Chen kept the documents for several reasons -- to help him write a planned memoir and prepare for lawsuits in which he was involved and give him evidence against other politicians.
Chen's attorney, Cheng Wen-lung, described the indictment as being based on "political suppression."
Cheng argued that the special division should be cracking down on irregularities involving incumbent government officials rather than on the former president, citing problems related to the production of an expensive musical, called the Dreamers, for the Republic of China centennial celebration last year.
The lawyer also contended that because the office of a former president is also defined as a public institution, Chen's action could simply be described as moving the files from one public institution to another.
"It does not involve illegal conduct or corruption," he argued.
Chen is currently serving a combined jail term of 17.5 years in prison for corruption during his two terms in office from 2000 to 2008.
(By Lee Hsiang-chun, Lin Chung-sen, Huang Yi-han and Elizabeth Hsu)