Nov 10, 2008

Taiwan: Former Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian arrested

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Former President arrested on charges of alleged misuse of state affairs funds – Chen Shui-bian claims to be victim of political prosecution

Below is an article published by: Taiwan News

Former President Chen Shui-bian was waiting for a court decision last night on whether he would be the first former Taiwanese head of state to go to prison after a prosecutors' request to detain him over alleged misuse of the state affairs fund and money laundering.

Chen has predicted many times that he would not be allowed to go home after yesterday's questioning, but would be locked up.

The prosecutors said there was a danger of Chen tampering with evidence, while each of the felonies he is suspected of is punishable with more than five years in prison.

Chen raised his handcuffs and shouted "Political Persecution" and "Go Taiwan" as he walked out of the prosecutors' offices yesterday following more than six hours of questioning. He stepped into a gray minivan taking him to the Taipei District Court for a hearing on the prosecutors' request.

The hearing, which started at 8 p.m., was interrupted late in the evening when Chen told the court that a policeman had used force against him as he left the prosecutors' offices with the handcuffs on. The former president requested to travel to National Taiwan University Hospital for a medical checkup, delaying a decision on whether he would face a night in prison.

Prosecutors said there was sufficient evidence to suspect Chen of corruption, forgery, illegally obtaining funds and accepting bribes, and of violating laws against money laundering.

Chen arrived at the offices of the Supreme Prosecutors Office's Special Investigation Division at 9:43 a.m. yesterday amid crowds of supporters.

Chen claimed President Ma Ying-jeou was arresting him as a sacrifice to quell the anger of China's leaders.

"I am the top political prisoner of the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party and the biggest hurdle for the two parties to move toward unification," he told a news conference on the steps of the prosecutors' bureau.

Chen said he was going to Taiwan's Bastille, a reference to the Paris prison which was a symbol of repression in the run-up to the French Revolution in 1789.

"You can lock up my body, but you can't lock up my heart," he said. Chen also reminded his audience that he had already spent eight months at the same prison, 22 years ago under martial law, after losing a case for slander brought by a KMT official.

Chen ended his address yesterday morning with the slogans "Long Live Taiwan's Democracy" and "Long Live Taiwan Independence."
Chen left the prosecutors' offices at 4:30 p.m., raising his arms and showing his handcuffs to the media.

Security in the area was tight as the authorities feared clashes between supporters and opponents of the former president.

Supporters revere him as the man who ended more than 50 years of KMT rule and pushed Taiwan toward independence, while his detractors claim he deepened divisions and hampered economic development.

Police mobilized 3,000 officers, set up barricades and installed traffic restrictions to maintain order around the area of the prosecutors' offices, close to Taipei's main railway station. Later, security was also stepped up around the Taipei District Court and the Taipei Detention Center in Tucheng, Taipei County.

Media reports said that Chen had replied to some of the prosecutors' questions, despite his assertion at a news conference Monday night that he would exercise his right to remain silent and would almost certainly face detention.

Chen's predicament followed months of investigations into a range of corruption allegations. His wife, Wu Shu-chen, was first accused of misusing NT$14.8 million from the presidential state affairs funds, to be used for special government projects.

Chen could not be charged because he was still in office at the time, but the investigation started as soon as he left office last May 20.
At an Aug. 14 news conference, Chen admitted that his wife had remitted US$21 million into overseas accounts held by relatives, touching off a separate investigation into alleged money laundering.

The investigations have led to the detention of eight suspects, including family friends, former close associates and former government officials.