Taiwan′s ex-president formally begins 19-year jail term | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 03.12.2010
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Taiwan's ex-president formally begins 19-year jail term

Chen Shui-bian has been transferred from a detention center, in which he was held for over 700 days, to a prison in Taoyuan, right outside of Taipei. His supporters say his sentence is unfair.

Chen Shui-bian enjoyed immunity during his two terms in office

Chen Shui-bian enjoyed immunity during his two terms in office

While Chen Shui-bian was convicted on multiple accounts, many are convinced of his innocence, as could be heard from supporters outside the prison on Thursday.

One of his main supporters is his son, Chen Chih-chung, who was just elected to the city council in the southern Taiwanese city of Gaoxiong. He was allowed to visit his father earlier this week and said that he was very "calm."

"He can take on his prison term with composure. Like he has said in the past, he is waiting in the darkness and sees a speck of hope through all the humiliation," Chen Chih-chung said.

"He says he will take care of himself and has asked me to thank all of his family members and supporters for their care and support."

The first allegations against Taiwan's ex-president go back to 2006, but while in office, he was under presidential immunity.

There were many protests against President Chen when he was implicated in several corruption scandals

There were many protests against President Chen when he was implicated in several corruption scandals

Charges of money laundering and forgery

Many of his family members have also faced corruption charges. In 2006, the former first lady, Wu Shu-chen, was arrested on charges of money laundering and forgery.

Chen was indicted on criminal charges of forgery, graft and money laundering at the end of 2008. He denied all allegations at the time and claimed to be the victim of a political campaign.

While some of the charges were later dropped, a verdict was handed down by Taiwan's Supreme Court on November 11 this year after a string of corruption cases.

"Chen Shui-bian and his wife, Wu Shu-chen, have received reduced sentences of 11 years in prison and have been fined 150 million NT (nearly four million euros)," court spokesman Chan Chun-tsung read out.

"They have been sentenced to eight years and given a fine in a further case regarding Diana Chen (former chairwoman of Taipei 101). With regards to Wu Shu-chen’s money laundering charges, her original sentence of 14 months has been reduced to seven. That is all I can say for now."

Damage to Democratic Progressive Party

Chen's election as president in 2000 ended over 50 years of Guomindang (KMT) rule in Taiwan. His party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), is known for its anti-China stance. While in office, Chen advocated loudly for Taiwanese independence.

Chen's election in 2000 ushered in an anti-Beijing era

Chen's election in 2000 ushered in an anti-Beijing era

Needless to say, the plethora of corruption charges surrounding the Chen family has not helped his party. In the 2008 presidential elections, in what first seemed to be a neck-and-neck race, the DPP’s candidate, Frank Hsieh, lost with around 40 percent of the votes.

Before those elections, the KMT's candidate Ma Yin-jeou had been in favor of Chen Shui-bian’s removal from office, however since becoming president Ma has been more reserved on the issue.

"As president, I cannot comment on ongoing judicial proceedings," he said last month when Chen was sentenced.

"But I will repeat what I said last month during the National Day celebrations: The judicial system must be independent. But at the same time, it must also coincide with societal expectations and protect and bring justice to the people. That is the foundation of the justice system and I agree with it."

Chen's original life sentence was reduced to 20 years by an appeals court earlier this year. He is said to have voiced concern over his wife’s poor health. She has been paralyzed from the waist down ever since an attempt on her life in 1985 and it is unclear whether she will serve her full sentence.

Author: Sarah Berning (Taipei)
Editor: Anne Thomas

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