Former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) met members of his family for what could be the last time yesterday, gathering in a small room at his detention center to emotionally bid farewell.
Former first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍), who like her husband was sentenced to at least 11 years in prison, and their son, Chen Chih-chung (陳致中), arrived at the Taipei Detention Center in Tucheng (土城) in the morning in an SUV driven by some of the former president’s supporters.
Looking downcast and ignoring media inquiries, the wheelchair-bound Wu was pushed into the gray building where she told the former president, convicted of accepting hundreds of millions of NT dollars in bribes, that she hoped they “can still be married in the next life.”
Chen Shui-bian is expected to be transferred to Taipei Prison within two weeks, after the Supreme Court found him guilty on Friday of taking bribes to facilitate land deals and political appointments and sentenced him to at least 11 years in prison. His wife, a co-defendant in the case, was also found guilty of the same charges.
Prosecutors have yet to decide where Wu, paralyzed from the waist down following a hit-and-run incident 25 years ago, will serve her sentence, but there is speculation that it could be in Taichung Prison, which maintains a large medical center.
Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫) told a Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee meeting at the legislature yesterday that as the Prison Act (監獄行刑法) does not regulate convicted people serving their sentence at home, Wu could be sent to Kaohsiung Prison and then Taichung Prison if necessary.
Prosecutor-General Huang Shih-ming (黃世銘) said that if, after being sent to prison, Wu’s health deteriorated, she could be transferred to a prison hospital, adding that if her condition worsened further, Wu could be released on very heavy bail and resume her sentence after her condition improves.
Even if the former first couple earned a few years off for good behavior, it remains unclear how long the final prison sentences will be. Judges and prosecutors have yet to decide if Friday’s sentences of 11 years and eight years should be served concurrently or consecutively.
Chen Shui-bian, 60, and Wu, 57, also have three more court cases still pending appeal by the Taiwan High Court, including charges of accepting more bribes, money laundering and embezzling secret diplomatic funds, for which the two had originally received life sentences, but which were shortened to 20 years during an appeal.
“This could be the last time in this life they see each other,” Chen Chih-chung said after the family reunion.
“Dad wants mom to not give up and to take care ... and mom hopes dad can also take good care of himself,” he said. “[She hopes] they can still be married in the next life.”
An official at Taipei Detention Center said that after the meeting, Chen Shui-bian was escorted back to his cell — his home for almost 700 days — and immediately started writing on a piece of paper. Chen Shui-bian was not especially emotional during this period, Taipei Detention Center deputy director Yeh Pi-jen (葉碧仁) said.
Outside the detention center, a small number of supporters of the former president briefly clashed with police, repeatedly chanting slogans such as “Chen Shui-bian is completely innocent.”
Tensions went up a notch after a People First Party city councilor candidate drove beside the protesters and called for “respect for the judiciary,” adding: “Chen Shui-bian is guilty.”
According to the Central News Agency, despite the Supreme Court’s final ruling, one of the former president’s lawyers has said that Chen Shui-bian would not rule out the possibility of an extraordinary appeal.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY RICH CHANG
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