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Taiwan high court rejects appeal for release of former president

[JURIST] Taiwan's High Court [official website] on Thursday rejected the appeal of former president Chen Shui-bian [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] protesting the court's previous decision to detain him [JURIST report] while he awaits trial on corruption charges [JURIST report]. Chen's detention was ordered last month after the High Court overruled [JURIST report] a decision by a Taiwanese district court to release Chen on his own recognizance. The High Court had previously rejected a decision by the district court to release Chen without bail, citing risks of flight, collusion and interference with other witnesses. Chen's lawyers argued that the detention was improper because Chen had not violated the terms of his release as granted by the district court, and that the detention was politically motivated [Taiwan News report]. Although his appeals are now exhausted, Chen said he would ask for a constitutional ruling [Taipei Times report] on his detention from the Council of Grand Justices [official website]. The High Court also rejected Chen's request to appoint a new presiding judge for the case. His trial is scheduled to begin on January 19.

The former president was indicted last month by Taiwanese prosecutors on charges including embezzlement, receiving bribes, forgery, and money laundering. His wife, his son and daughter-in-law, three former presidential aides, and eight other associates and family members have also been indicted. Chen has been detained since his November arrest [JURIST report] on suspicion of embezzling money from the state affairs fund. While in prison, Chen later went on a hunger strike and was hospitalized [JURIST reports]. Chen, the former leader of the now-opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) [party website, in Mandarin] who resigned the presidency in May 2008, has maintained his innocence and has said that the investigation of his conduct is a political attack by members of the ruling Kuomintang Party [party website]. Chen spent eight months in prison twenty-one years ago for defaming Nationalist leaders. In September, he was cleared [JURIST report] on more recent defamation charges.

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