Taiwan ex-president to go on trial for alleged corruption

Other News Materials 18 January 2009 14:54 (UTC +04:00)

Taiwan's ex-president, Chen Shui-bian, is scheduled to appear in court Monday in a corruption trial that his lawyer says is weighted against him, dpa reported.

"Not only that the presiding judge Tsai Shou-hsun is (biased), but most local news media are also one-sided. So the chances to win the case in the district court trial are not high," Chen's defense lawyer Cheng Wen-lung told reporters Sunday.

He said local news media have been making unfavourable reports against Chen, which Cheng believed would affect the decisions of the judge's panel.

Chen has become the first retired Taiwanese president to stand trial on charges of bribery, embezzlement, money laundering and forgery. If convicted, he could face a jail term of up to life imprisonment.

In August, Chen admitted that his wife, Wu Shu-chen, had wired 21 million US dollars abroad without his knowledge. But he stressed the funds were left over from previous campaign donations.

He was detained on November 12 and released after his indictment on December 12. But prosecutors appealed against his release to the high court, saying Chen was a flight risk who might also threaten witnesses in the case. As a result, Chen was remanded to the Taipei Detention Centre on December 30, pending trial.

According to Tsai, the three-day trial, which begins on Monday, is merely a preliminary session. No decisions or rulings are expected.

Chen will be questioned over his alleged role in two land deals in which he was charged with taking bribes. The court will hold hearings on the embezzlement case on Tuesday and the money laundering case on Wednesday.

More than 200 policemen will be deployed to maintain order. Hundreds of Chen's supporters are expected to rally outside the courthouse.

Chen, who advocates for a fully indepent Taiwan, has claimed the trial is politically motivated by his successor -- China-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou -- in a bid to appease China and subdue the pro-independence movement in Taiwan.

Taiwan and China split at the end of a civil war in 1949, but Beijing still regards Taiwan as an integral part of China that must be brought back to its fold, if necessary by force.