Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Taiwan's former leader dehydrated over hunger strike

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Former Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian was hospitalized for dehydration Saturday, a hospital official said, after he went on a two-day hunger strike to protest his detention over graft charges.

Television footage showed police officers moving a pale-looking Chen, with his eyes closed, on a gurney into the Taipei County Hospital in Banciao in suburban Taipei.

Tucheng Detention Center -- where Chen has been held since November on corruption charges -- said in a statement that Chen was transferred to the hospital after he showed signs of dehydration Saturday morning. It said he refused water and solid food for two days.

The hospital's Deputy Superintendent Yang Chang-bin told reporters that Chen was suffering from "slight dehydration" but was conscious and had cooperated with medical staff.

Chen vowed earlier this week to go on a hunger strike to protest his detention. He previously went on two other hunger strikes in jail, but ended them after his wife and family pleaded with him to preserve his strength.

The 58-year-old Chen and his wife Wu Shu-chen are standing trial on charges of embezzling NT$104 million ($3.15 million) while in power, receiving bribes worth at least $9 million in US currency in connection with a land deal, and laundering part of the funds by wiring the money to Swiss bank accounts.

The couple was indicted on new graft charges earlier this week. Prosecutors said they also took NT$290 million ($8.8 million) in bribes from 2002 to 2005 from a local banker.

Chen may face life in prison if convicted.

Yang recommended that Chen stay in the hospital for an unspecified period of time for further monitoring.

He said they will be examining Chen for his "complaint of angina." Local media had reported earlier this week that Chen complained in court about suffering from the heart condition.


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