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Chen Shui-bian to stay in prison at least until Jan. 5

Traffic jams hold up review of medical report: MOJ

Chen Shui-bian to stay in prison at least until Jan. 5

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Against the expectations of many, ex-President Chen Shui-bian was unable to leave Taichung Prison on medical parole Wednesday because the necessary documents were caught in traffic jams, the Ministry of Justice said.
The announcement ended hopes that Chen would be able to spend New Year’s Eve and the four-day holiday at home for the first time in more than six years.
The MOJ’s Agency of Corrections would hold a meeting next Monday, January 5, at 9 a.m. to discuss the case, officials said. A report on Chen by his medical team that had to be transferred from the prison in Taichung to the ministry in Taipei had been caught up in traffic jams on the freeway, making it impossible to still convene the necessary 10-member review committee, the MOJ said, adding that it only received the document shortly before 5:56 p.m.
Prison officials said the report had left Taichung at 2 p.m., but three freeway accidents intervened to slow down the transfer. A prison spokesman said it had seemed more opportune to send the document by car rather than by high-speed train.
Expectations had been high that the ailing ex-president would be allowed to leave the prison’s Pei-te Hospital on New Year’s Eve. The last expected step in the long bureaucratic process would have been the setting of bail by the Taichung District Prosecutors Office and the registration of a guarantor.
Former lawmaker Liu Wen-ching had already arrived at the prosecutors’ office to volunteer as a guarantor when the news of the postponement emerged, reports said.
News websites showed the picture of an ambulance which was reportedly waiting to take the ailing ex-president home.
The move coincided with the fourth day of a hunger strike by Chen’s former Vice President, Annette Lu, who moved from Taipei to the gates of the prison Wednesday morning.
A 15-member team of medical experts, which included seven appointed by Chen’s family, came to the conclusion that his health problems warranted his release on medical parole, which would allow him to receive treatment at home for a month.
The length of the bureaucratic procedure necessary to achieve his release came under fire, as it was initially believed Chen could leave the prison on Tuesday at the earliest.
Former Defense Minister Michael Tsai, who accompanied Lu on her visit to Chen and who also took part in the fast, said he was prepared to serve as the ex-president’s guarantor.
However, later media reports pointed out that might not be possible as Tsai had been indicted for leaking confidential government information. He denied the charges, but the courts had not issued a final verdict in his case yet, which might prevent him from serving as guarantor. In the end, Chen’s relatives settled on Liu as a guarantor.
Earlier, Lu said that if Chen was still in prison New Year’s Eve, she would call on his supporters to gather outside the Presidential Office Building in Taipei Thursday morning to raise pressure on President Ma Ying-jeou. The location will be the site of an annual flag-raising ceremony attended by the public early on New Year’s Day.
Chen served more than six years of a 20-year prison sentence and was fined NT$250 million (US$7.9 million) for a series of charges including corruption and money laundering. He was first detained in late 2008, months after leaving office, before his trial began.
After visiting Chen at the Taichung Prison during her hunger strike Wednesday morning, ex-Vice President Lu stayed at its Pei-te Hospital to rest because she felt weak.
Lu began the fast Sunday afternoon as a sign of support for Chen’s release on medical parole, but on Wednesday morning she moved to Taichung to visit the former head of state.
She reportedly felt weak and there was a risk she might faint because of low blood pressure, so at around noon she was allowed to rest at the prison hospital where Chen stays, reports said.
When Lu told him he could be packing his bags to prepare for his departure, Chen refused, saying he had already been fooled too many times.
Police increased reinforcements outside the prison as more and more supporters arrived outside. Lu initially wanted to hold a hunger strike to obtain Chen’s release before Christmas, but she later postponed her action to call on the authorities to let him return home before the New Year.


Updated : 2020-12-02 12:37 GMT+08:00