Taiwan ex-president back in jail as probe wraps up

Other News Materials 19 November 2008 12:43 (UTC +04:00)

Former Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian returned to jail on Wednesday from almost three days of hospital care following a hunger strike, as supporters prepared to protest his arrest, which they call a political plot Reuters.

A probe into the ex-president's suspected role in several money-related crimes will be finished by year end, possibly leading to an indictment, a special prosecutor's spokesman said.

Chen's fate is likely to affect public opinion of Taiwan's opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which backed Chen in office and faces tough local elections next year, experts say.

"The longer the Chen Shui-bian case lingers, it will generate more anxiety within the DPP," said Alexander Huang, a strategic studies professor at Tamkang University in Taipei.

"I have limited knowledge of whether the case would be a minus or a plus for the 2009 elections."

Chen, 57, known as an anti-China firebrand who upset Beijing and Taiwan's key ally the United States while in office from 2000 to 2008, was arrested on November 12 on suspicion of graft, forgery, money laundering and other crimes.

He was sent to a suburban Taipei jail cell until late Sunday, when he was hospitalised after not eating for 108 hours, his lawyer said. A doctor on Wednesday determined he was fit enough to return to jail, prosecutor's spokesman Chen Yun-nan said.

"Our employees will encourage him to eat normally," he said.

But the ex-president will continue to refuse food, his lawyer Cheng Wen-lung said, and he is not afraid of dying.

Chen Shui-bian has denied wrongdoing and called the probe against him and other senior opposition leaders a political plot.

People sympathetic to his cause will protest in a Taipei park on Saturday to draw attention to what they call "human rights" issues under the current Nationalist Party (KMT) administration, said DPP spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang.