Fri, May 23, 2008 - Page 4 News List

Former first lady prohibited from leaving country

AFP , TAIPEI

The wife of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has been barred from leaving the country during her ongoing trial on corruption and forgery charges, a court official said yesterday.

“Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) has made public appearances — which were broadcast by the media — showing she was able to move around ... therefore we have decided to prevent her from leaving the country,” said Taipei District Court spokesman Liu Shou-sung (劉壽嵩).

Liu was referring to Wu’s visits to polling stations for parliamentary and presidential elections earlier this year.

The wheelchair-bound Wu collapsed in court in late 2006 at the start of her trial and has since been excused from all court sessions on health grounds.

Wu has pleaded not guilty to charges that she illegally claimed NT$14.8 million (US$450,000) in personal expenses from state funds.

Chen was also named a suspect in 2006 but escaped immediate prosecution because of presidential immunity. But prosecutors launched a corruption probe against Chen less than an hour after he lost his immunity on Tuesday when new President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office.

The former president has admitted using false receipts to claim money from the state, but insisted those funds were used for “secret diplomatic missions” and not for his personal benefit.

Prosecutors, however, allege at least US$1.5 million was spent on diamond rings and other luxury items for his wife.

Chen has repeatedly insisted that he and his family are innocent.

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