No medical parole for former president: Justice Ministry

Taipei, Feb. 24 (CNA) Former President Chen Shui-bian, who is serving an 18.5-year prison term for corruption, is in a stable condition and does not meet the requirements for medical parole, the Ministry of Justice reiterated Sunday. At a hastily arranged press conference, Vice Justice Minister Chen Ming-tang said that Taipei Prison has already given the 62-year-old former president special consideration, citing the fact that he was allowed to be visited by his family throughout the 9-day Lunar New Year holiday earlier this month. Chen has been treated, under police surveillance, at the Taipei General Veterans Hospital since last September for alleged depression and other health problems. The Ministry of Justice was responding to renewed calls for Chen to be given medical parole following an official report which concluded that "an appropriate medical environment is urgently needed (for Chen) in order to prevent unforeseen accidents from happening." The report, released Friday, was sanctioned by the Control Yuan, an independent agency which reviews government policy and practices. It criticized the Ministry of Justice and Taipei Prison for negligence in the handling of Chen's health condition. Chen Ming-tang, the vice minister of justice, said that suggestions made by the Veterans Hospital last year included transferring the former president to a medical center with a ward for chronic mental illness and returning the patient to Taipei Prison. As an inmate, Chen does not have the right to choose where to get medical treatment, the vice minister added. (By Tsai Pei-chi and Jay Chen)