Independent lawmaker Yen Ching-piao (顏清標) began his twice-delayed prison term for illegal possession of firearms almost a month late yesterday after a short visit home.
The Taichung Prosecutors Office sent an ambulance and six prosecutors up to Taipei's Veterans General Hospital to bring him home, prosecutor Chang Yi-chin said.
Wearing a surgical mask and sitting in a wheelchair, Yen moved from the ambulance to his home under intensive media scrutiny. The bulky 47-year-old lawmaker wanted to stand up and speak publicly, but it didn't work.
A short time later, Yen was taken to the Taichung Prosecutors Office and then headed to prison to start his three-and-a-half-year sentence.
His attorney denied allegations that Yen had been trying to extend his stay in hospital until the start of the next legislative session, making it more difficult for prosecutors to imprison him. Skeptics had already suggested that Yen had been faking his medical problems.
The lawmaker's entrance into prison had first been scheduled for July 23, but he was taken to the Veterans General Hospital with acute heart failure the night before. Media reports suggested the lawmaker's drinking with friends contributed to his health problem.
Prosecutors gave Yen a postponement until August 13, but the second attempt at getting him behind bars failed when the hospital chose that day for surgery. Yen was operated on for obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, which causes sufferers to stop breathing in their sleep for periods of more than a minute.
Prosecutors rejected Yen's request to let him convalesce for five weeks, but instead agreed to give him one week, the period doctors said he needed to stay in hospital under close observation.
Doctors said yesterday they still wanted to keep him at the hospital for at least one week, but "other motives" prevented them from doing so. Prosecutors have said Yen will be well looked after at medical facilities linked to the Taichung Penitentiary.
In a statement released yesterday, Yen said he respected the court verdict but still felt he was innocent.
The independent lawmaker is still appealing a sentence for spending more than NT$20 million in public money wining and dining during his days as a member of the Taichung County Council.
Yen gained islandwide prominence as chairman of the Chen Lan Temple in Tachia township, Taichung County, famous for taking its effigy of the goddess Matsu on an annual parade.