11/13/2008, 00.00
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Chen begins hunger strike, supporters plan protests

The former president is protesting over "political accusations," and is receiving support from some members of his party. His followers plan public protests, including in front of prison. Today, his son-in-law's sentence of 7 years in prison for insider trading was upheld.

Taipei (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Former Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian, in prison for two days under the accusation of embezzling 14.8 million Taiwanese dollars (less than 358,000 euros), money laundering, and other crimes, began a hunger strike yesterday in protest against what he is calling political persecution intended to appease China, his traditional adversary. Meanwhile, Taiwan's high court has upheld the sentencing of his son-in-law, Chao Chien-ming, to 7 years in prison and a fine of 30 million Taiwanese dollars, for insider trading.

His lawyer, Cheng Wen-long, says that the former president denies the accusations and contests his imprisonment, which took place after a long delay on the part of the prosecutor. Meanwhile, he is being supported by his Democratic Progressive Party, the president of which, Tsai Ing-wen, says that the manner of his arrest - Chen was taken away in front of everyone in handcuffs; in protest, he lifted these above his head to display them; he was then put into a car escorted by at least 20 other vehicles - was an insult to his supporters and a means of increasing political conflict. She criticizes the judges for telling journalists about details of the investigation underway, and says that the current president, Ma Ying-jeou (who succeeded Chen in May), "should take full responsibility for permitting this to happen."

Chen was taken away by hundreds of police officers, to prevent protests by his supporters, who were waiting outside of the hall of justice where the first interrogation took place, for 11 hours. Now his supporters plan protest demonstrations, likely to take place on Sunday in front of the Tucheng prison, just outside of Taipei.

Analysts observe that the arrest of a former president is, instead, proof of the island's strong democracy. They note that accusations of serious crimes have also been directed against his coworkers and relatives, while he was still in office. His main collaborator, Chen Che-nan, is accused of corruption, and today Taiwan's high court upheld the sentence of his son-in-law, Chao (in the photo), for insider trading, thought to have brought him profits of more than 100 million Taiwanese dollars (2.42 million euros). In December of 2006, the court sentenced him to 6 years, but the punishment was increased on appeal. He could appeal the new sentence.

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