Ma Ying-jeou
Former Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou. Reuters

A court in Taiwan on Tuesday sentenced former President Ma Ying-jeou to four months jail over a leak of information related to national security, legal documents showed.

The former President, however, 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 judgment of not guilty, saying 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 sections infringed was four months’ imprisonment.

The court found that Ma had leaked information related to national security, to 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 or N1.5m), the court said in a statement, in line with Taiwan law that allows such payments for lighter sentences, instead of going to jail.

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.