Taiwan High Court continues Chen's detention

TAIPEI, Taiwan – Taiwan's High Court has ruled that former President Chen Shui-bian should remain in detention while appealing a lower court's life imprisonment sentence on wide-ranging corruption charges.

News media said Chen collapsed into his chair at the courthouse after judges announced the decision following a five-hour hearing on Thursday. He was later taken back to the Taipei jail where he has been detained since late 2008.

Chen was sentenced to life in prison by the Taipei District Court earlier this month after being found guilty of embezzling $3.15 million during his 2000-08 presidency from a special presidential fund, receiving bribes worth at least $9 million, and laundering some of the money through Swiss bank accounts.

Earlier this week, he was indicted on new charges that he pocketed $330,000 from foreign affairs funds for personal use.

The High Court decided to keep Chen in detention for three more months, saying he was a potential flight risk because of the heavy sentence passed by the district court, said court spokesman Wen Yao-yuan.

After reviewing the case, "the court reckoned that he is still hiding a huge amount of assets overseas ... and he is likely to flee Taiwan if free," Wen said.

Chen's wife, Wu Shu-chen, denied the prosecutors' accusation that the family was hiding at least 570 million New Taiwan dollars $17 million abroad. Speaking through aide Chiang Chih-ming, she said the family had no overseas assets other than those in frozen foreign bank accounts.

Chen is appealing his sentence, but no trial date has been set.

The former leader has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and charged that he is being prosecuted for his anti-China views by President Ma Ying-jeou's administration. Ma, who has been eager to improve ties with Beijing, has denied the accusation.

Chen's continued detention renewed questions on whether Taiwan's judiciary has compromised Chen's human right, bowing to prevailing public demand that the former president be dealt with severely for alleged corruption.

Opposition Democratic Progressive Party Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen — who has repeatedly argued for Chen's release — said the former president offered to have himself confined at home or wear a monitoring device in exchange for his bail. Tsai said he hoped judges would consider the proposal.