Jailed president let out for treatment

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 March, 2012, 12:00am

Jailed former Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian saw the outside of a prison yesterday for the first time since the island's Supreme Court sentenced him, in November 2010, to 17 1/2 years in prison for graft.

Taiwan's Ministry of Justice on Friday granted the disgraced former leader permission to visit hospital for a medical check-up after he complained of a health problem which prison doctors said they did not have sufficient medical resources to treat.

The former leader was taken to Taoyuan General Hospital in northern Taiwan early yesterday morning and received a comprehensive full-day check-up that showed him to be suffering from coronary artery disease, which results in serious chest pains due to reduced bloodflow to the heart.

'Mr Chen has a coronary artery problem, and we recommend that he remain in hospital for a surgical operation [on Thursday] morning,' said Wang Wei-chieh, a hospital spokesman.

Wang said the hospital would first perform a balloon angioplasty treatment in the hope of restoring Chen's regular blood flow. If that does not work, the hospital will probably try inserting a stent into the blocked or narrowed part of the affected artery.

Hospital vice-president Hsu Chin-chih said the ex-president would have to stay in hospital for about a week to allow for his operation and recovery.

Hsu Tain-tsair, a legislator from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, who visited Chen in the hospital, said doctors had also found Chen had a tumour in his prostate and would need to perform further tests to determine if it was malignant. Hospital officials declined to comment on this.

Chen has also been able to receive visits from family members: his 86-year-old mother, Lee Shen, son Chen Chih-chung and daughter Chen Hsin-yu.

Chen's wife, Wu Shu-chen, who received the same jail sentence as her husband but was allowed to serve it at home due to serious health problems, did not go to the hospital.

Before permission was granted for Chen's treatment at hospital, his wife lashed out last week at the government of President Ma Ying-jeou for disregarding human rights in its refusal to allow Chen to receive outside treatment following his complaints of problems such as stomach pains.

The couple are still appealing against several other graft convictions from lower courts, stemming from Chen's time as president between 2000 and 2008, and the Supreme Court will review them.

The ex-leader has claimed that his imprisonment is politically motivated and that the mainland-friendly Ma wanted him behind bars to appease Beijing, which was upset by Chen's calls for independence for Taiwan.