Tue, Dec 07, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Court sets Chen’s prison term at 17-and-a-half-years

By Vincent Y. Chao  /  Staff Writer, with CNA

The Taiwan High Court ruled yesterday that former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) should serve 17-and-a-half years in prison.

The court also determined that the fines against Chen, who has been convicted and jailed on corruption charges in two separate cases, would total NT$154 million (US$5.05 million).

On Nov. 11, the Supreme Court sentenced Chen to 11 years in prison for taking bribes in a land deal during his time in office and also gave him an eight-year sentence in another bribery case.

The rulings were the final convictions in a string of corruption cases implicating Chen and his wife, Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍).

By law, the High Court can determine whether the combined 19-year sentence should be served concurrently or consecutively. A collegial panel at the court ruled that Chen’s total prison time should be 17-and-a-half years, a court spokesman said.

Chen began serving his sentence at a jail in Taoyuan County on Thursday, making history as Taiwan’s first former head of state to be jailed.

Later yesterday, judicial officials ruled that the wheelchair-bound Wu would be sent to the Taichung Prison hospital to serve her term. Wu has been sentenced to 11 years for taking bribes in a land deal and eight-and-a-half years for money laundering.

Prior to the announcement, the couple’s daughter, Chen Hsing-yu (陳幸妤), said incarcerating Wu in Taichung Prison would be a violation of her “basic human rights.”

“They shouldn’t be locking up my mother just for the sake of locking her up because she is a member of the Chen family,” Chen Hsing-yu told reporters at a rare public appearance. “Other people with my mother’s health conditions would not have been locked up.”

She said Wu’s health was precarious and that it was a problem everyday just to feed, clothe and help her to the bathroom. The quality of care that Wu would receive in prison was not clear, her daughter said.

“If the prison can take a person [with her conditions], they should let her fulfill her sentence,” she said. “The issues I am most concerned about, however, are how she will manage to [use the washroom] and her diet ... They can’t use these things to mistreat her.”

“And if they can’t provide her with her basic human rights and if this results in her death, I would see it as death by abuse and I couldn’t bear it,” she said.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers also expressed shock at the ruling on Wu, pointing to a long precedent of allowing prisoners with a history of medical problems to serve their sentences at home instead of in prison.

DPP lawmakers said that under the law, the prison should reject her sentence.

Pointing to government statistics, DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said that in the past five years, there have been 760 cases of prisoners rejected from having to fulfill their sentences in prison because of medical issues.

The law, she said, states that prisoners who cannot take care of themselves “should definitely be rejected.”

“It’s a clear regulation and there is no room for interpretation,” Kuan said. “The judiciary should not just give in to outside pressure … in making an unlawful decision.”

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