Taiwan ex-president 'totally denies' graft charges

Taiwan's jailed ex-president Chen Shui-bian told a court at his first pre-trial hearing that he was innocent of graft charges, a spokeswoman said.

Taiwan ex-president 'totally denies' graft charges

Taiwan's incarcerated ex-president Chen Shui-bian, an anti-China firebrand who ruled for eight years, told a court at his first pre-trial hearing on Monday that he was innocent of graft charges, a spokeswoman said.

Chen, taken by police van from his cell to a closed hearing at Taipei District Court, rejected charges of graft, money laundering and misuse of public funds ahead of an expected lengthy trial, his private foundation said.

"He totally denies any fault," said Sue Wang, director-general of the Ketagalan Foundation. "Graft, laundering, forgery, he said he was innocent of all of it."

Prosecutors charged Chen last month with embezzling T$104 million ($3.1 million) from a special presidential office fund, accepting bribes of about $9 million related to a land procurement deal and taking another $2.73 million in kickbacks to help a contractor win its bid for a government project.

A court spokesman would not comment on Monday's proceedings.

Chen's fate is likely to shift public opinion of Taiwan's opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which backed the former president when he was in office from 2000-2008 and faces tough local elections at the end of the year against the ruling Nationalist Party (KMT). Chen left the DPP in August.

"The alleged corruption scandals have an impact on our credibility as a political party," said Lin Chen-wei, the party's international affairs director. "But his contribution to Taiwan history doesn't change."

Chen, whose pursuit of independence for self-ruled Taiwan upset rival China and Taiwan's main ally the United States during his presidency from 2000 to 2008, has previously described the probe involving him, his wife, son and aides as a political plot.

China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong's Communists won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists (KMT) fled to the island. Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary.

Reuters
Last Mod: 19 Ocak 2009, 09:38
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