A US senator has asked Christopher Marut, director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), to visit former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) in jail or hospital.
Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, said in a letter sent this week to Marut that Chen is suffering from severe depression and is undergoing psychiatric treatment at Taipei Veterans General Hospital.
It is an obvious attempt by Brown to draw more attention to Chen’s case and increase the pressure on President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to grant medical parole for Chen, who is serving a 17-and-a-half-year sentence for corruption.
“Reduced to a shadow of his former fiery self, Chen stutters and slurs his speech, and cannot walk far without tripping over,” The Economist magazine reported earlier this month.
“The prison’s harsh standard of treatment, which falls well below international norms, is contributing to serious illness,” the magazine said.
Chen’s continued incarceration, The Economist said, was not only undermining Ma’s “now dangerously low popularity,” but also faith in Taiwan’s system of justice.
“As advocates for human rights, freedom, democracy and the rule of law around the world, it is critical that we continue to support Taiwan,” Brown wrote to Marut.
Brown urged Marut to read a recent independent medical report that details Chen’s failing health and concludes that “in any democracy” this would be sufficient cause for immediate medical parole on humanitarian grounds.
“I ask that you review the report and visit the former president at the appropriate time,” the letter said.
“Senator Brown is a friend of president Chen, whom he has met on multiple occasions in Taiwan over the past decade,” Formosa Association of Public Affairs president Mark Kao (高龍榮) said. “It is touching to see a US senator ... reach out across the globe to a friend in need.”