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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Former Taiwan President Sentenced to Life in Prison

By Thibault Worth
11 September 2009

Former Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian has been found guilty of corruption and sentenced to life in prison.

The Taipei District Court on Friday convicted Mr. Chen of embezzling over $3 million from a presidential affairs fund. He was also found guilty of accepting bribes worth $9 million in connection with government land deals.

Taipei District Court spokesman Huang Chun-ming explains the severity of the verdict.

Huang says the court decided to impose the life sentence on Mr. Chen Shui-bian because as president, he severely damaged Taiwan.

Chen was convicted of a total of six charges and fined $6 million.

His wife, Wu Shu-chen was convicted of similar charges and was also sentenced to life in prison.

The case has riveted the country. On Friday, several hundred supporters of Mr. Chen demonstrated near the court, some throwing plastic bottles and trash at police in protest.

Mr. Chen and his supporters accuse the current government of persecuting Mr. Chen for his fiery anti-China politics.

As president from 2000 to 2008, Mr. Chen frequently clashed with Chinese leaders by asserting Taiwan's independence.

China has claimed the island as a breakaway province since the end of a civil war in 1949, and vows to unify Taiwan with the rest of the country by force if it takes formal steps to declare independence.

The self-ruled island became a multi-party democracy in 1996, after decades of rule by the Kuomintang. Chen was the first leader elected from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party.

Current President Ma Ying-jeou, a member of the KMT, has made closer relations with Beijing a cornerstone of his administration. Mr. Ma rejects allegations that the government is persecuting Mr. Chen.

Several aspects of the trial have drawn international criticism though. Following Mr. Chen's indictment last December, a three-judge panel from the Taipei District Court was replaced. The new judges took a harsher stance, accepting prosecutors' arguments that Mr. Chen should be denied bail. The ex-president has spent more than eight months in detention.

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