Chen's wife pleads innocent, collapses

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 December, 2006, 12:00am

Taiwan's wheelchair-bound first lady collapsed and was rushed to hospital yesterday shortly after she pleaded innocent in a high-profile trial for embezzlement and forgery.

Wu Shu-chen, 54, the paralysed wife of President Chen Shui-bian, fainted during a recess 90 minutes after the start of proceedings dubbed by Taiwanese media 'the trial of the century'. Wu is the first wife of a Taiwanese president to face trial for corruption.

The dramatic collapse created a stir in the Taipei District Court as jittery aides rushed Wu to hospital.

'She was in a stable condition after resting for about an hour. The first lady was treated for an irregularly low body temperature and a slow heartbeat,' said her doctor, Lin He-hsiung, stressing that Wu had to remain in hospital rather than return to court for the trial.

Despite recent poor health, Wu appeared in court as scheduled.

She was charged on November 3 with embezzlement of NT$14.8 million (HK$3.5 million) in state funds. Prosecutors also indicted three of Mr Chen's aides and wanted to charge the president with the same crime, but he has immunity.

Attended by medical personnel, Wu pleaded innocent shortly after the start of the trial. Her lawyers demanded the case be thrown out, saying it was a violation of the constitution for prosecutors to question Mr Chen, who they claimed was the person using the funds.

If there was no way the court could make Mr Chen face trial, there was no way it could find out exactly what happened, they said.

But prosecutors said that under Taiwanese law, judicial authorities could ask the president to clarify certain issues and that it was not unprecedented for Mr Chen to be questioned. He had previously appeared as a witness at a court hearing in Hualien, in eastern Taiwan.

The proceedings ended with all defendants pleading innocent. Wu did not return to the court.

The next session will be held on Friday, when the court will decide whether to continue the proceedings, said Judge Tsai Shou-yu.



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