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October 10, 2009

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Court to keep Chen in detention during appeal

TAIWAN'S High Court has upheld its earlier decision to keep former leader Chen Shui-bian in detention after the "Supreme Court" ordered it to hold a hearing on the matter, an official said yesterday.

The "Supreme Court" questioned the High Court's contention two weeks ago that Chen posed a flight risk while he appeals his life sentence on graft charges.

After a four-hour hearing, court spokesman Wen Yao-wen said it decided to keep Chen in detention out of concern he may still flee the island if released.

"The defendant knows about ways to escape better than ordinary people," Wen said. "As he and his family own significant assets abroad, he can still afford an affluent lifestyle overseas."

News reports said that Chen told the judges he was aware of several secret underground tunnels that could lead to helicopter landing pads, but only the incumbent leader has access to those facilities to help him flee the island at times of emergency.

Taiwan's police chief Wang Cho-chun refused to comment on the reported tunnels yesterday.

Chen said that all of his family's overseas bank accounts had been frozen and he would not be able to use any of the money, the news reports said.

Chen's lawyer, Chen Wen-lung, said he would refile an appeal against detention.

Chen was convicted last month of embezzling US$3.15 million from a special government fund, receiving bribes worth at least US$9 million, and laundering some of the money through Swiss bank accounts.

He has been detained in a suburban Taipei jail since December.

Chen is the first former Taiwanese leader to be put on trial.

Chen has argued that his detention prevented him from properly preparing his defense during his trial.


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