The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) last night announced that former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) would be able to leave Taipei Prison for medical treatment as soon as a hospital visit could be arranged.
The announcement came as Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫) defended the prison’s handling of Chen health earlier in the day and a day after former first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) asked the prison to send her husband to a hospital not affiliated with the prison for a checkup
The ministry said taking into consideration the views of physicians, Chen would be granted temporary leave for a hospital visit, during which he would be escorted by prison guards and police.
A hospital visit would be arranged at the earliest this coming week, the ministry said.
Earlier in the day Tseng said Chen has had three health examinations and the results of stool tests were found to be normal, except for problems associated with influenza and constipation.
The Taipei Prison would continue to monitor Chen’s health and have doctors conduct a more detailed examination, he said.
However, he rejected the idea that Chen might be transferred to another prison in southern Taiwan as requested by Chen’s family, who live in Greater Kaohsiung, saying that by law, prison transfers are not granted to inmates whose cases are still on the court docket.
After visiting Chen on Thursday, Wu said her husband looked very tired and had a swollen stomach. She said he should be given a comprehensive checkup in light of a family history of liver cancer.
She also threatened to mobilize Chen’s supporters in southern Taiwan to stage a protest in Taipei if the prison fails to accede to her request.
Meanwhile, former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) visited Chen yesterday and afterwards told reporters that he looked “very sick, with a dark complexion and a skinny body.”
According to Lu, Chen also had difficulty walking and that his hand felt “as cold as ice” when they shook hands.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesman Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) yesterday urged Taipei Prison to consider allowing Chen to have medical treatment outside the prison on “humanitarian grounds” and because of Chen’s status as a former president.
Former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), another member of the DPP, wrote on his Facebook page that “no political considerations should be involved” when authorities are dealing with the matter.
Hsieh warned that if a delay in action leads to a “life-threatening” situation for the former president, it would be “tantamount to murder,” which could deepen social confrontation.
Chen is serving a 17-and-a-half year prison term for corruption.
This story has been updated since first published.