Mon, January 19, 2009
China > HK/Taiwan

Former Taiwan leader Chen faces two new charges

2009-01-19 14:06:19 GMT2009-01-19 22:06:19 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

TAIPEI, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- Former Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian faced two new charges at a Taipei court which began three days of pre-trial proceedings on corruption charges on Monday.

The two additional charges were blackmailing and seeking profit on projects that he was not in charge of. The most serious term he could face if convicted is life in prison.

The court had postponed another hearing set for Wednesday to February 24, as lawyers needed more time to prepare.

Chen rejected the charges, saying the court had degraded him into a rascal by the charge of blackmail.

The proceeding began at 9:30 a.m. local time (0130GMT) at the Taipei District Court and ended at around 2 p.m.. Later the court summoned two of Chen's friends, who both confessed to money laundering and bribery charges in court.

Chen and his wife Wu Shu-chen were charged with embezzling 104 million New Taiwan dollars (3.15 million U.S. dollars) in public funds and accepting bribes of about 9 million U.S. dollars in a land purchase deal.

Chen is being detained in a Taipei jail.

The three-day process will set the agenda for the trial, which is scheduled for February.

Chen was elected to the post of Taiwan leader eight years ago and kicked out by public vote in May last year.

He has been in custody since Nov. 12.

He was first indicted by prosecutors on Dec. 12 for money laundering and bribery while in office.

The district court decided to release him without bail on Dec. 13 but banned him from leaving the island. Prosecutors appealed his release on Dec. 16, and Taiwan's High Court overruled the decision of the district court. However, it handed the case back to that lower court on Dec. 17.

The next day, the district court upheld its original verdict. The prosecution appealed again and the High Court overruled the lower court decision for a second time on Dec. 28.

Chen was returned to prison on corruption charges following a verdict by the district court on Dec. 30. The verdict allowed him to meet his lawyer and family.

Chen then appealed his detention, but the High Court rejected his appeal on Jan. 7 and ruled that he must remain in jail.

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