The former director of Taiwan's military intelligence testified Friday that he never approved the killing last year of Chinese-American journalist Henry Liu and that his greatest error was failing to inform his superiors when he learned that a gangster working as a spy was responsible for the murder.
"My biggest mistake was that I didn't report it to my superiors," Vice Adm. Wang Hsi-ling told a five-judge military panel. "If I had done that, I believe that today I would not be here."
Wang, 58, earlier had admitted that he had discussed with United Bamboo Gang leader Chen Chi-li the possibility of "giving a lesson" to Liu. The writer, a critic of the Taiwan government, was shot to death in the garage of his Daly City home on Oct. 15.
Wang and two former subordinates from the intelligence bureau testified Friday at a daylong hearing that concluded their military trial. The three defendants, all of whom face possible death sentences, were questioned extensively, but no witnesses were called.
A single witness--Chen--was called at the only other session in the military trial.
Chen, 41, who testified that Wang ordered him to kill Liu, and Wu Tun, 35, a gang associate convicted of carrying out the shooting, were sentenced Tuesday to life imprisonment in a separate civilian trial. Under Taiwan law, they will be eligible for parole after 10 years.
By taking full responsibility for not informing his superiors of intelligence bureau involvement in the case, Wang helped insulate the proceedings from any examination of whether higher officials were implicated.
That issue has been labeled the key unanswered question about the case by FBI investigators and some American officials in the State Department and Congress, as well as Helen Liu, the slain journalist's widow, and her supporters in the United States and Taiwan.
Virtually no new information emerged from Friday's hearing. Wang's co-defendants, former Deputy Intelligence Director Hu Yi-min, 58, and another former intelligence official, Chen Hu-men, 41, repeated earlier testimony in which they denied knowing of any planned action against Liu. They said all of their contacts with Chen Chi-li were at Wang's orders and that they thus bore no responsibility in Liu's death.
In sharp contrast with a dramatic courtroom confrontation April 4 between Chen Chi-li and Wang over who bore greater responsibility for Liu's death, much of Friday's hearing produced visible boredom in the 80-member audience, composed primarily of local journalists. Several Chinese reporters appeared to be dozing through lengthy portions of the proceedings.
No date was set for the verdict and sentencing.