Former Taiwan president jailed for four months

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TAIPEI (Reuters) – A court in Taiwan yesterday sentenced former president Ma Ying-jeou to four months jail over a leak of information related to national security, legal documents showed, but he vowed to appeal, and could avoid jail altogether by paying a fine.

In the first conviction in a series of lawsuits against Ma since he left office in 2016, Taiwan’s High Court overturned a lower court’s judgement of not guilty, saying he violated a communication and surveillance act.

“Ma Ying-jeou violated the Communication and Surveillance Act,” the court said in its judgment, adding the punishment for the sections infringed was four months’ imprisonment.

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The court found Ma had leaked information related to national security, and an opposition lawmaker Ker Chien-ming, that should have been confidential.

Ma’s sentence could, however, be avoided on payment of a fine of T$120,000 ($4,019), the court said in a statement, in line with Taiwan law that allows such payments for lighter sentences, instead of going to jail.

Ma told Taiwan media he planned to appeal.

A former stalwart of the opposition Nationalist or Kuomintang Party, Ma was Taiwan’s president from 2008 to 2016, ushering in an era of closer ties with mainland China.

China considers self-ruled and democratic Taiwan to be a wayward province to be taken back by force one day, if necessary.

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Beijing has taken an increasingly hostile stance over the past two years towards Taiwan, following the election of Tsai Ing-wen of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party to succeed Ma. ($1=29.8570 Taiwan dollars).

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