Ranking member of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee US Representative Howard Berman has written to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to appeal for the medical parole of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
“Releasing Chen from prison on humanitarian grounds would allow him to receive the thorough, long-term medical treatment that he needs and would aid in his physical and mental recovery,” the letter says.
It was written as Berman, a Democrat from California, becomes increasingly involved in a bitter re-election battle with fellow Democratic US Representative Brad Sherman. Berman, 71, and Sherman, 57, are fighting for the same Los Angeles-area seat as a result of their separate districts being combined in a restructuring plan for the state’s political boundaries.
In what has become one of the highest-spending US House of Representatives races in the nation, the two veteran Congressmen almost came to blows during one recent debate and a sheriff’s deputy had to come between them.
According to one report, Sherman aggressively seized Berman by the shoulder as they discussed immigration and shouted into his face: “You want to get into this?”
Small and frail, Berman was clearly shaken. In an effort to win support from voter groups, Berman has turned to the large numbers of Taiwanese-Americans in the Los Angeles area. Over the past few years, he has regularly backed pro-Taiwanese issues before the Foreign Affairs Committee and taken time to speak at Taiwanese-American meetings.
The release of Chen on medical grounds is a popular issue with Taiwanese-Americans. In his letter to Ma, Berman mentions recent reports of Chen’s deteriorating health and says one should “consider the possibility of directly intervening in this matter, based on empathy and compassion.”
“Your action on behalf of Chen would be seen by the rest of the world as magnanimously transcending politics and could mitigate any tensions in Taiwan over this situation,” he wrote.