|Soldiers search through
the wreckage of Lincoln Mansions, a housing development
in Hsichih, Taipei County, destroyed by a landslide following
heavy rains on Aug. 27, 1997, in which 28 people died.
The Taiwan High Court yesterday overturned or reduced
lower court verdicts that gave heavy sentences to contractors
and officials found responsible for the disaster.
The Taiwan High Court has reduced
sentences for those found responsible for the Lincoln Mansions
disaster. Residents of the ill-fated buildings call the decision
By Irene Lin
Builders and government officials were given reduced sentences
yesterday by the Taiwan High Court, partially reversing a
lower court decision finding them responsible for the death
of 28 residents at the Lincoln Mansions disaster in Taipei
Residents of the ill-fated buildings, who have fought for
compensation since the disaster in 1997, called the ruling
"incredible," and challenged the court's rulings.
"It's such an obvious and outrageous example of corruption
links between the contractors and the officials. How could
the court take it so lightly?" said Chou Chih-chuan (周志全),
a Lincoln Mansions resident and one of the legal action organizers.
"Throughout the process of negotiations, we residents
have been disappointed by the irresponsible attitude of the
builders and the government agencies. A lot of the residents
have felt so hopeless that they're on the verge of killing
themselves," Chou said.
"People say the disadvantaged can have their rights protected
in court. But I doubt it really," Chou said.
The Lincoln Mansions was a housing complex with over 1,000
units in Hsichih, Taipei County. Built on hillside land, the
complex suffered mass damage after rain from a typhoon caused
the collapse of a retaining wall behind the complex.
Twenty-eight people were killed by the collapse of several
buildings and over 300 units were destroyed in the disaster.
Residents of other units subsequently moved out of the complex
when serious construction faults were found in the buildings
after the accident.
An investigation by the prosecution found that the contractors
and the designers of the complex were responsible for the
Also, the investigation identified 13 Taipei County Government
officials who forged documents confirming building standards
in the licensing process.
The Shihlin District Court convicted 18 defendants -- five
builders, one designer and twelve officials -- in 1998, while
acquitting a defendant who was an official. Sentences ranged
from two to 10 years prison terms.
However, the High Court reversed the lower court decision
yesterday, reducing sentences for most of those convicted
in the construction fault case.
The contractor for the complex, Lee Tsung-hsien (李宗賢), who
was originally sentenced to 10 years and six months in jail,
had his sentence reduced to four years and five months by
the High Court yesterday.
The jail sentence for the designer of the residences, Lu Chung-yao
(盧正堯) was reduced to eight years and six months from the original
nine years and 10 months.
Moreover, the High Court found not guilty eight of the 12
previously convicted officials on the grounds of insufficient
evidence. Sentences for the other guilty officials ranged
from five years to seven years in jail.
Lee, the number one target of the residents' legal actions,
was found guilty by the district court under charges of profiteering,
falsification of documents and professional manslaughter.
However, the High Court cited a supreme court precedent in
quashing Lee's profiteering charge, suggesting the charge
can only be used against public servants.
An addition to the criminal proceedings, the Lincoln Mansions
residents have filed civil suits against the builders and
also filed requests for state compensation.
Negotiations have also continued between representatives of
the residents, the builders, and the government, with meetings
taking place every month.
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