House arrest urged for ex-president

CRITICAL SITUATION::As former president Chen’s health continues to worsen, concerned parties called for him to be cared for at home rather than confined to jail

By Chris Wang  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Feb 07, 2013 - Page 3

Former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) and a group of physicians and lawyers yesterday urged President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to put imprisoned former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) under house arrest, saying that Chen’s life is in danger because of health complications.

“Chen’s body, mind and spirit have been devastated by being locked up in prison for more than 1,500 days and by various illnesses. The best and the only way for him to fully heal is to give him a normal life, allowing him to go home and spend time with his family,” Lu told a press conference yesterday.

The former president, who is serving an 18-and-a-half-year sentence for corruption, has been staying in Taipei Veterans General Hospital for treatment for severe depression, sleep apnea and Parkinson’s disease.

Lu said she has printed 100,000 postcards and launched a postcard-sending campaign, in an effort to put pressure on Ma.

The DPP also made the same appeal to Ma on Jan. 30.

The former vice president said that Ma, then serving as former president Chiang Ching-kuo’s (蔣經國) secretary, had helped arrange a meeting with New York University professor Jerome Cohen in March 1985 for her when she was serving time in prison as a political prisoner.

“I want to express my appreciation for Ma’s assistance even to this day and I also expect Ma to show the same compassion to Chen and let the former president go home,” Lu said.

Taipei Veterans General Hospital physician Kuo Cheng-deng (郭正典), who was on a medical team made up of physicians who treated Chen, said that Chen’s health was a matter of serious concern.

Kuo, who regularly met with Chen in the hospital, said the former president’s spirit was affected by the DPP’s loss in the presidential election in January last year because he said that his chance of fair trials and of receiving justice would be slim during Ma’s second term.

Being stripped of an opportunity to leave his cell and work by Taipei Prison, which cited security concerns for the decision, and spending 23 hours every day in a cell without a table and a bed under video surveillance have also contributed to Chen’s deteriorating health, Kuo said, adding that Chen often talked about death and suicide.

“We are not here today talking about a medical parole or moving Chen to a hospital in Kaohsiung so that he could be closer to his family. We are talking about having him home with his family so he could at least have a normal environment in which to recover from his mental breakdown,” Kuo said.

“I would predict that if Chen is kept in his current environment, the worst-case scenario could happen before Ma leaves office in 2016,” Kuo said.

Chen, who has lost his balance and often falls, could be killed by an unlucky fall, Kuo said.

Chen’s lawyer Cheng Wen-lung (鄭文龍) accused Ma of a lack of humanity and respect for Chen as Ma has never visited the former president.

“While Chen was a political enemy, Ma should pay tribute to his predecessor as a president. That is what he should do as a person. But Ma never did,” Cheng said.