- The Washington Times - Monday, March 29, 2004

TAIPEI, Taiwan — A U.S. forensics team led by an expert who investigated President Kennedy’s assassination began a probe yesterday into the election eve shooting of Taiwanese leader Chen Shui-bian.

Solving the shooting mystery could be key to defusing a political crisis over the March 20 election. Mr. Chen’s top rival, Lien Chan, has insinuated that the president staged the shooting to get a boost from last-minute sympathy votes. Mr. Chen’s margin of victory was 0.2 percent.

Mr. Lien’s Nationalist Party and Mr. Chen’s Democratic Progressive Party agreed yesterday to consider passing a law that would set up a special commission to probe the shooting. Mr. Lien has said he doubts that the foreign investigation team will be impartial.

The team yesterday began analyzing bullets, blood samples, medical photos and other evidence from the March 19 shooting. The bullet grazed Mr. Chen’s abdomen as he was campaigning in an open vehicle.

The team leader, Dr. Cyril H. Wecht, suggested that the conspiracy theories that Mr. Chen faked the shooting seemed unlikely. The bullet left a 41/2-inch gash under Mr. Chen’s navel.

“Looking at this wound, it is consistent with a gunshot wound,” said Dr. Wecht, who also helped investigate the death of former FBI intern Chandra Levy and has consulted on high-profile cases ranging from the Kennedy assassinations to the death of Elvis Presley.

The team, invited by the government of the Republic of China (Taiwan), also includes Taiwanese-American forensics expert Henry Lee, who has investigated several prominent cases, including of O.J. Simpson and JonBenet Ramsey. Mr. Lee is expected to arrive April 12 after analyzing the material collected by his team.

Mr. Lien has demanded a recount and says he won’t accept the election results until the investigation ends. Mr. Chen has agreed to ask the courts to quickly order a recount, and the process will begin when Mr. Lien’s lawyers file a petition for the re-tally.

Police have no suspects or other solid leads, but Dr. Wecht was optimistic that the team would figure out what happened.

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