Former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was released from detention at around 1:20am yesterday after a four-hour hearing.
“This was the toughest and loneliest 32 days of my life. But I really appreciate what the judges did back in the courtroom and what my supporters did the entire time,” he said. “Regarding those reminders from the judges, I will keep them in mind.”
Chen was referring to advice from the judges that he not use his “personal charm” with supporters to make the case more complicated.
Judges also said he shouldn’t travel around the country making public appearances like he did prior to the indictment.
When releasing Chen, the panel of three Taipei District Court judges banned him from changing his address or leaving the country.
Chen, who appeared in the court lobby after changing into a dark suit, thanked the judges and promised to honor the terms of his release.
Chen shook hands briefly with some of the 20 supporters who had gathered outside the courthouse before heading home.
Presiding Judge Chou Chan-chun’s (周占春) order to free Chen said that the court was releasing him without bail because Chen had not missed a summons.
Chou also said that Chen had no chance to flee because as a former president, he is constantly protected and escorted by special agents.
The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office’s Special Investigation Panel (SIP) said that it would not appeal.
“We shall not appeal this,” SIP Spokesman Chen Yun-nan (陳雲南) said.
The spokesman said that Chou’s decision to release the former president would not have an impact on the investigation.
“We cannot do anything about it even if it could,” he said. “We will continue our efforts on this case and this is the only thing we can do.”
The former president’s lawyer, Cheng Wen-long (鄭文龍), welcomed the decision to release Chen, saying it would help increase judicial credibility.
“This is a step forward for Taiwan’s judicial system. It will also ease doubt about prosecutors forcing confessions by detaining Chen,” he said.
The former president, locked up since Nov. 12, was indicted on charges of embezzling government funds, money laundering and forgery along with 13 others, including his wife, son and daughter-in-law. As prosecutors are seeking the “severest penalty,” legal experts say that Chen, the first former president to be indicted, could face life in prison if convicted.
Chen Shui-bian, who pledged to clean up government when he was elected in 2000, left office in May after serving two four-year terms as president.
Prosecutors say the 58-year-old Chen, a lawyer by training, and his wife Wu Shu-chen (吳淑珍), embezzled about US$3 million in public funds and, along with two other people, accepted a bribe of about US$12 million on a land deal.
Their son Chen Chih-chung (陳致中) and daughter-in-law Huang Jui-ching (黃睿靚), along with 10 others, were indicted for corruption and money laundering in connection with the case.
After his release, Chen Shui-bian received a haircut at a barbershop. He smiled at reporters but made no comment.
Former first lady Wu Shu-jen’s (吳淑珍) lawyer Lee Sheng-hsiung (李勝雄) lauded the judges yesterday for making a “brave” decision to release Chen, but urged the court to release former National Security Council secretary-general Chiou I-jen (邱義仁) and former Bureau of Investigation director-general Yeh Sheng-mao (葉盛茂) as well.