Taiwan’s former president Ma Ying-jeou was slapped with new charges on Tuesday in a political leaks controversy, just weeks before he faces possible conviction in another related case.

While still in office Ma was protected by political immunity.

Ma Ying-jeou. Photo: Wikicommons.

But since he stepped down as leader in May last year he has been hit with a range of corruption and other allegations.

Ma’s Beijing-friendly Kuomintang held power from 2008 to 2016, before they were trounced by Tsai Ing-wen and her opposition Democratic Progressive Party.

Taipei prosecutors acting on behalf of the government charged Ma Tuesday with leaking secrets about a confidential judicial probe into the island’s then premier Jiang Yi-huah and an aide in 2013.

They also accused him of instructing a top prosecutor to disclose confidential information to Jiang.

The 2013 investigation at the heart of the controversy was looking into whether the parliamentary speaker at the time — a political rival of Ma — had influenced a case against an opposition lawmaker.

Photo: HKFP.

“Even though Ma has declared he was unaware of and would not interfere with (an ongoing probe), he leaked information that should have been kept confidential,” said Chang Chieh-chin, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office.

Ma was indicted for violating the communication security and surveillance act, which carries a maximum three-year jail term.

He has already appeared in court three times over separate charges brought by a lawmaker relating to leaks about the same judicial probe.

That lawsuit accuses Ma of asking the then prosecutor-general to leak secrets to him about the investigation. The verdict is due later this month.

Ma is the third ex-president in Taiwan to be indicted on criminal charges.

His predecessor Chen Shui-bian was serving a 20-year sentence for corruption until he was freed on medical parole in 2015.

Lee Teng-hui was charged with embezzling state funds during his 1988-2000 presidency, but was acquitted.

Ma’s office protested his innocence in a statement Tuesday, saying he was “carrying out his duties as the president when handling a major scandal involving interfering with the judiciary”.

“It should not constitute a crime,” the statement said.

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