Former Taiwan leader gets reduced sentence (2)

08:07, June 12, 2010      

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Bail suspense

The court didn't announce whether to end Chen's detention and release him on bail Friday. Court sources said the judge will announce the decision in a written statement "sometime later."

Chen has been held in a Taipei detention center for more than 560 days, and the detention order will expire June 23.

Prosecutors insisted that the huge amount of money at Chen's overseas accounts hadn't been completely sent back to Taiwan yet, and they said he may escape if released from detention.

Chen, however, said in court that he would fight for his reputation to the end and would never flee abroad. He also pledged to wire back NT$570 million from another account in Switzerland within a week.

KMT "legislator" Chiu Yi, said there is increasing possibility that Chen will be released on bail, judging from the lenient ruling.

Mixed influence

In 2000, Chen was first elected as Taiwan's top leader, breaking the Kuomintang's half-century power hold on the island. He was controversially re-elected in 2004 with some charging that an election-eve assassination attempt against him was staged to garner sympathy among Taiwan's 23 mil-lion people.

Chen and his wife resigned from the Democratic People's Party (DPP) in August 2008 after he admitted failing to declare election-campaign funds and that his wife had wired NT$700 million abroad without his knowledge.

Friday's ruling over Chen and his families met with different opinions. The AP called the sentence "a small victory for the man who once excited great passions on the island but is now largely ignored."

Taiwanese "president" Ma Ying-jeou said he respects the judicial judgment in the ruling.

But Ker Chien-ming, a "legislator" from Chen's DPP, said the ruling is unacceptable because each leader is entitled to have a special "presidential" fund. "Chen should be innocent in terms of his use of the funds," Ker said.

Qi Dongtao, a professor at the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore, was quoted as saying by Bloomberg that "The reduction in his sentence will lift the DPP's morale," though the party has distanced itself from him and he no longer has a key role to play.

Wang Jianmin, of the Institute of Taiwan Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, disagreed, saying that Chen is a risky variable for the DPP, which faces tough local elections at the end of the year against the ruling Kuomintang, polls seen as a bellwether for the 2012 presidential race.

"He is likely to have a negative effect on the DPP in elections, judging from past experience," Wang said.

Agencies contributed to this story

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