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Taiwan corruption trial begins for ex-president Chen

[JURIST] The corruption trial of former Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] opened Thursday, one day after Chen criticized the proceedings as "political persecution." Chen was indicted [JURIST report] in December and faces possible life in prison on charges of embezzlement, receiving bribes, forgery, and money laundering. Chen has maintained that the charges against him are politically motivated, alleging that the administration of current President Ma Ying-jeou [official website; JURIST news archive] is using the trial to distance itself from Chen's anti-China views. On Wednesday, Chen issued a statement of protest [Taipei Times report], declaring that a verdict against him had been determined before the trial began. Also Wednesday, the Taiwanese Ministry of Justice [official website] announced that it will investigate statements made by a prosecutor [Taiwan News report] in the Chen trial on a television talk show to determine whether any confidential information was revealed. Chen's trial is expected to conclude in mid-April [NYT report].

Chen has staged two hunger strikes [JURIST report] in protest of the charges against him, and in January he unsuccessfully appealed [JURIST report] his pretrial detention. In February, Chen's wife, Wu Shu-Chen, pleaded guilty to charges [JURIST report] of money-laundering and forgery, but denied charges that she embezzled from the presidential state affairs fund. Chen's sister-in-law has also pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to charges that she had forged documents and transferred money to bank accounts upon orders from Chen and Wu. Chen has asserted that he was unaware of Wu's actions. In September 2008, Chen was cleared [JURIST report] of separate defamation charges.

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