Ailing former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was released from prison on medical parole yesterday, after serving six years for a graft conviction relating to his presidency.
Chen, in a wheelchair and holding a cane, left the prison accompanied by his son, Chen Chih-chung (陳致中), for a month of medical treatment. He waved to a group of supporters waiting outside before boarding a car arranged by prison authorities to take him to his home in Greater Kaohsiung.
As his motorcade — led by police motorcycles — left the prison, some supporters shouted: “A-bian (陳水扁) is not guilty,” and “Go, A-bian,” using the former president’s nickname.
The motorcade navigated throngs of supporters and reporters outside the prison for 10 minutes before breaking free and heading on its way.
Earlier yesterday, a 10-member review panel at the Ministry of Justice’s Agency of Corrections decided to grant the parole in the light of recommendations from a team of doctors who reported a rapid deterioration of Chen Shui-bian’s health since May last year, Deputy Minister of Justice Chen Ming-tang (陳明堂) said.
“His health conditions are complicated and difficult to control. He could die at any time,” Chen Ming-tang said.
In a statement, the agency cited the medical team’s report, saying that the 64-year-old is experiencing loss of motor control.
“This type of degeneration occurs in different parts of the brain simultaneously,” it said.
It added that although Chen Shui-bian was being treated by a team of doctors from Taichung Veterans General Hospital, he has not shown any obvious improvement, except for with his sleep apnea.
After careful observation, the medical specialists reported that Chen Shui-bian’s prison environment did not help his health and would lead to worsening illness, the agency said.
The physicians concluded that confinement had seriously affected his health and recommended that he be sent home for care on medical parole, the agency said.
It stressed that the parole is a temporary release on medical grounds and that Chen Shui-bian is required to return to prison once his health stabilizes.
“The parole period will not count toward his prison term,” the agency added.
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), who is also the convener of Chen Shui-bian’s healthcare working group, yesterday called the latter’s release “just the beginning,” given the substantial work ahead in designing a healthcare plan for the veteran politician.
“His going home is not as easy as it looks,” Ko said. “Thought has to be put into his environment and care.”
He gave as an example the need to protect Chen Shui-bian from accidental falls after he gets home.
Ko also expressed support for efforts to curtail the ministry’s power to rule on medical parole cases.
“Chen Shui-bian’s case has shown us that there are no clear rules on the conditions under which prisoners are to be released to receive medical care,” Ko said. “Allowing prison wardens or the Ministry of Justice to unilaterally decide is not ideal, in my opinion.”
Chen Shui-bian was transferred to a prison hospital in April last year after being diagnosed with severe depression, suspected Parkinson’s disease and other conditions.
He attempted to commit suicide in June last year, trying to hang himself with a towel in a prison hospital bathroom, officials said.
Chen Shui-bian’s supporters have recently stepped up their campaign for his early release.
His former deputy, former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), 70, undertook a three-day hunger strike in a tent late last month to demand that he be freed.
The former Democratic Progressive Party leader ended 50 years of continuous Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) rule when he came to power in 2000.
After his second term ended in 2008, Chen Shui-bian was sentenced to life in prison in 2009 for money laundering and bribery — a term reduced to 20 years after appeals.
He began serving his sentence on Nov. 11, 2010, but had been detained for nearly two years by then, while prosecutors were investigating and prosecuting the cases.
Chen Shui-bian insists that the charges against him are part of a politically motivated vendetta by the current KMT government in retaliation for his eight years in power promoting Taiwan’s independence.
Additional reporting by Abraham Gerber
SIXTEEN LOCAL: Three COVID-19 infections are linked to a cluster at a gambling house in Yilan County, 10 to a case in New Taipei City and three had unclear sources The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday urged people to increase vigilance and thoroughly practice preventive measures against COVID-19 as it reported 16 locally transmitted cases of the disease. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that 21 cases were confirmed in Taiwan yesterday: 16 local cases, four imported cases and one case undetermined. The locally transmitted cases are three linked to a cluster of infections at a gambling house in Yilan County, 10 associated with a previous case in New Taipei City and three with unclear sources of infection. The CECC on Tuesday reported a cluster
ENFORCING CAUTION: Certain entertainment facilities are to close nationwide to prevent people traveling there from high-risk areas in the north, the center said The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday raised the COVID-19 alert for Taipei and New Taipei City to level 3 in light of surging cases in the two cities. The enhanced disease prevention measures for level 3 are to be implemented until May 28, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, told a morning news conference at the Executive Yuan in Taipei. With 180 locally transmitted cases confirmed yesterday, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said that the government must take immediate action to protect the public, referring to measures stipulated in the Communicable Disease Control Act (傳染病防治法). Other counties
TRACING TROUBLE: An infected man who had said that all his children were abroad was found to have a daughter in Kaohsiung who tested positive, the center said The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported a new daily record of 29 local COVID-19 cases, including seven cases with unknown sources of infection. Of the 29 cases, 16 are linked to tea houses in Taipei’s Wanhua District (萬華), Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, told a news briefing in Taipei. The 16 are tea house workers or visitors, or their contacts, the CECC said. Workers and visitors to the establishments have frequent interpersonal contact, but few protective measures against the COVID-19 pandemic are in place, Chen said, urging those who have been exposed or have
GRID PROBLEM: A Taipower spokesman said that the blackouts were not due to usage exceeding supply, nor were they because of a problem at the Singda plant There were rolling blackouts across Taiwan yesterday due to a grid malfunction at the Singda Power Plant (興達電廠) in Kaohsiung’s Yongan District (永安), while Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電) said that it was working “as hard as possible to resolve the issue as soon as possible.” At 2:37pm, a malfunction at an ultra-high-voltage substation in Kaohsiung’s Lujhu District (路竹) triggered four generators at the Singda plant to go offline, cutting power output by 2.2 million kilowatts and prompting Taipower to initiate rolling blackouts nationwide as it worked on the problem. Taipower spokesman Chang Ting-shu (張廷抒) told a news conference in Taipei that