U.S. EXPERTS IN TAIWAN TO HELP INVESTIGATE ELECTION-EVE SHOOTING
Taipei, March 29 (CNA) Three U.S. criminal investigation specialists have arrived in Taipei to help investigate the election-eve assassination attempt on President Chen Shui-bian, the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) reported Monday.
Dr. Cyril Wecht, a nationally acclaimed forensic pathologist; Michael G. Haag, a forensic firearms expert with U.S. Forensic Science Consultants, Inc.; and Timothy Palmbach, a crime scene investigative specialist, visited CIB headquarters in Taipei Monday morning for a briefing on the shooting of President Chen Shui-bian. Vice President Annette Lu was also slightly injured in the attack.
Chen and Lu were shot while riding in an open-top jeep on a street in Tainan City, southern Taiwan. The roadway was lined with supporters during the last day of campaigning before the March 20 presidential election.
Taiwan's particular brand of greeting by supporters along roadsides is the lighting of large strings of firecrackers on both sides of the road as the candidate's vehicle passes. The fireworks are large, about the size of a little finger, and are not only deafening, but give off large amounts of gunpowder smoke.
The gunman was able to get off at least two shots unnoticed in the roar of the firecrackers, smoke and excited distraction of the crowds lining Chen and Lu's route.
The three U.S. experts proceeded to Tainan City in the afternoon to begin their investigations in the hope that more evidence will be obtained to help bring the perpetrator of the crime to justice. They will visit the street where the shooting occurred and the Chi Mei Foundation Medical Center, where Chen and Lu were examined and treated.
The three-member group -- consigned by Dr. Henry Lee, who Taiwan's State Public Prosecutor-General Lu Ren-fa has invited to conduct a forensic investigation into the election-eve shooting -- will stay in Taiwan for only one day.
Lee, meanwhile, will not be able to come to Taiwan until after mid-April due to his tight schedule, according to CIB officials.
Wecht, one of the members on the autopsy panel of late U.S. President John F. Kennedy, is currently chair of the Department of Pathology at the Central Medical Center and Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In November 2003, he organized a meeting on "Solving the Great American Murder Mystery: A National Symposium on the 40th Anniversary of the JFK Assassination."
According to Kuo Chen-ni, a Tainan City prosecutor presiding over the investigation of the Chen-Lu shootings, her office has collected a total of 96 items of information and possible evidence over the past week. Of the total, 89 have been excluded while seven remain valid. These the Tainan district prosecutors' office will continue to study.
President Chen's opponent, Kuomintang Chairman Lien Chan, who lost to Chen in the presidential election by a razor-thin margin of 0.228 percent or 29,518 votes out of more than 13 million ballots cast nationwide, has said that there were many questions surrounding the election-eve shooting and demanded an independent investigation into the incident.
Last Saturday afternoon, about half a million of Lien's supporters thronged the streets surrounding the Presidential Office, demanding a vote recount and an independent inquiry into the failed assassination attempt against Chen that the opposition camp claimed had unfairly swayed sympathy votes Chen's way.
President Chen was grazed across his stomach in the shooting while Lu suffered a minor wound to her right knee.
(By Deborah Kuo)
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