Ma Ying-Jeou, former President of Taiwan, has been sentenced to four months in jail for leaking information related to national security.
However, he has vowed to appeal the judgement and could also 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 the judgement of a lower court discharging and acquitting him. The High Court insisted that he violated a communication and surveillance act.
“Ma Ying-jeou violated the Communication and Surveillance Act,” the court said in its judgment, adding that the punishment for the offence was four months in prison.
The court found that Ma had leaked to opposition lawmaker Ker Chien-ming information that should have been confidential because it relates to national security.
Ma’s sentence could, however, be avoided on payment of a fine of T$120,000 ($4,019 or N1.5m), the court said in a statement, in line with Taiwan laws that allow such payments for lighter sentences instead of going to jail.
A former stalwart of the opposition Nationalist or Kuomintang Party, Ma was Taiwan’s 18th President, serving between 2008 and 2016, a period that ushered in an era of closer ties with mainland China.
As well as serving as Justice Minister (1993–96) and Mayor of Taipei (1998–2006), he was also the Chairman of the Kuomintang (KMT) from 2005 to 2007 and from 2009 to 2014.