The wife of former Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian yesterday failed to appear in court for the 17th time over corruption charges. The move prompted an outcry from people who expected the new government headed by Ma Ying-jeou to uphold judicial procedures by at least making Wu Shu-chen show up in court. Without permission from the court, the former first lady refused to turn up in court yesterday after her first summons since Mr Ma replaced her husband as president on May 20. Wu was indicted in November 2006 on a charge of embezzling NT$14.8 million (HK$3.57 million) in special state funds while her husband was president. Wu, who is paralysed from the waist down, fainted from low blood pressure during the first session of the trial in December 2006. 'The panel of judges decided not to accept the reason provided by Wu Shu-chen to apply for leave and called an end to the preparatory session, meaning there would be no more sessions for her to fully speak up to defend herself in the future,' said Huang Chun-ming, spokesman for the Taipei District Court. Claiming the former first lady might die from intense pressure because of her failing health, Wu's lawyers sent a request to the court on Thursday night - when it had already closed for the day - asking for another leave of absence on her behalf. Instead of going to the court to explain Wu's condition, her lawyer, Stephen Lee Sheng-hsiung, read a statement at a brief news conference in Taipei, saying Wu had originally planned to appear in court. 'She had no choice but to agree not to appear in court because she must listen to the opinions of the professionals at the National Taiwan University Hospital that she is not fit for trial given that she could pass out and die,' Mr Lee said. Mr Huang noted that Wu's failure to show up in the preparatory session means she gave up her chance to speak and the court will go straight to trial the next time it summons her. Asked why the court did not grant a prosecution motion for a warrant forcing Wu to appear, Mr Huang said the court would take appropriate action next time if she did not show up. His comments, however, upset some members of the Taiwanese public who said the judicial authorities were being lenient with Wu. 'Could an ordinary civilian repeatedly ignore the court summonses? Could he or she refuse to appear in court, just citing health reason provided by the National Taiwan University Hospital?' asked a caller to a political talk show on television. Opponents of Mr Chen also flooded the Taipei District Court and the National Taiwan University Hospital with angry phone calls, saying they should not have given Wu such a privilege as it was apparent she merely pretended to be very ill. Wu was fit to vote in the legislative election in January and presidential poll in March, and she was seen visiting her husband at his office last month.