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ROC Central News Agency

2007-05-01 23:10:30

    Taipei, May 1 (CNA) About 600 military criminals will be eligible for amnesty if a Ministry of Justice (MOJ) -proposed sentence commutation statute clears the legislature, a spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense (MND) said Tuesday.

    The spokesman made the remarks after a media report claimed earlier in the day that the MND is opposed to the MOJ proposal to include military prison inmates on a list of those eligible for amnesty. "The report was not right, " the spokesman said, adding that the MND has only proposed exclusion of certain categories of military criminals who have been given terms of more than a year, including those who have leaked confidential military information, assaulted or threatened supervisors, hijacked military vessels or aircraft, and those who have been involved in robbery, theft and rape.

    According to the spokesman, the MND is still consulting with the MOJ on the scope and eligibility of military criminals. "We have tentatively agreed to offer amnesty to minor military criminals who are serving a year or less," the spokesman said.

    Once the MOJ-initiated 2007 amnesty statute passes the legislative floor, the spokesman said, some 600 military criminals will be eligible to have their sentences commuted and about 360 of them can be set free immediately.

    Meanwhile, the Executive Yuan invited officials from the MND and the MOJ to discuss what should be the cut-off date for those eligible for the amnesty.

    The meeting came after the MOJ submitted the draft for the statute to the Cabinet last Friday for review.

    Cabinet spokeswoman Chen Mei-ling said that offenders convicted of corruption, vote-buying, financial crimes, sexual assault, money-laundering, drug-dealing and trafficking will not be included in the amnesty, while those convicted of homicide will also not be granted commutations.

    According to Vice Justice Minister Lee Chin-yung, the amnesty bill is expected to benefit over 25,000 prison inmates if approved by the Cabinet and passed by the Legislative Yuan.

    The MOJ drafted the statute in line with the principle of "showing leniency for minor offenders, while giving harsh penalties to felonies or serious offenders," Lee explained, adding that those who have gravely harmed national and social interests will not get commutation.

    However, those who have committed minor offenses and are serving short jail terms will be granted the chance of a new start, he said.

    Lee further said a national commutation bill would help relieve prison overcrowding.

    His remarks were seen as a response to media reports that prisons are so overcrowded that some inmates have to sleep on walkways and in prison factories.

    Meanwhile, Liao Teh-fu, director of the MOJ's Department of Corrections, said jails are overcrowded every year and that the problem is particularly serious this year.

    The ministry will also begin to encourage those who can pay fines in lieu of short sentences to pay fines instead of going to jail, Liao said.

    Currently, some offenders are allowed to pay their fines in installments and can even apply for a loan, Liao went on, adding that this is a very effective policy that prevents even more inmates from clogging the jail system.

    Loosening restrictions on qualifications for parole and reducing prison terms can also ease the problem of overcrowding, Liao pointed out.

    Previous experience shows that the recidivism ratio of inmates who are released after commutation is low, according to Liao.

    In 1991, when the government implemented the last amnesty, the recidivism ratio of those who received amnesty was 16.4 percent, while the ratio in the past decade averaged between 39.8 percent and 45.1 percent for those who served out their sentences or were released on parole.

(By Sofia Wu)


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