Former president attempts suicide
ROC Central News Agency
Taipei, June 3 (CNA) Former President Chen Shui-bian tried to hang himself Sunday night, apparently disillusioned over snags in his bid to rejoin his former party and the Legislature's move to absolve politicians of abuses of taxpayer funds, the Ministry of Justice said.
The Justice Ministry's Agency of Corrections issued a statement Monday detailing the suicide attempt by the former president, who is currently serving a 20-year jail term for corruption and money laundering in a hospital affiliated to Taichung Prison.
The statement said Chen tried to hang himself with a towel from a faucet 90 centimeters off the ground in a corner of his bathroom that was out of view of surveillance cameras.
Realizing that something was wrong, prison guards went to check on Chen and stopped him from going through with his plan, the Corrections Agency said.
According to the statement, Chen told prison staff he wanted to take his life to show his extreme dissatisfaction over his problems in trying to rejoin the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)and a revision to the Audit Act rammed through the Legislature on May 31.
The revision would exempt research grants given by the government to professors and special allowances for elected officials from being audited.
Because it is retroactive, it would absolve ex-lawmaker Yen Chin-piao, who is serving a three and half year jail term for using public funds to visit hostess bars and KTV lounges while serving as Taichung County speaker in 1999 and 2000.
'If visiting hostess bars can be absolved, why can't I be absolved for using my state affairs fund for diplomacy,' Chen was quoted as saying by the agency.
The former president has been indicted for embezzling his state affairs fund, a discretionary fund given to presidents, but the case is still being tried.
Following the incident, Taichung Prison arranged for Chen to meet with a psychologist and gave him the chance to plant seeds in a garden, which improved his mental state, the agency said.
President Ma Ying-jeou has asked the Ministry of Justice to pay attention to the personal safety and the physical and mental condition of the former president, according to Presidential Office spokeswoman Garfie Li.
A spokeswoman for Chen's private medical team, meanwhile, said they had been worried about Chen's mental state.
Chen Chao-chi said the former president has always felt that he was wronged in the state affairs fund case, and it was another blow to him to see somebody getting different treatment.
As for the former president's application to rejoin the party, Legislator Ker Chien-ming said the issue would be solved next week.
Ker made the comment after he and fellow DPP Legislator Chen Chi-mai visited the former president at Taichung Prison Monday afternoon.
(By Kelven Huang, Sophia Yeh, Chen Ching-ping and Lilian Wu)
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