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Taiwan ex-president Chen dismisses lawyers to protest prosecution

[JURIST] Former Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] dismissed his defense lawyers Thursday and announced he would not call any witnesses in protest of what he sees as a politically motivated prosecution [Taipei Times report]. Chen, who was indicted [JURIST report] in December, faces possible life in prison on charges of embezzlement, receiving bribes, forgery, and money laundering. Chen and his former lawyers claim that the decision to keep Chen in detention while he awaited trial was politically motivated and they argue that the government violated [China Post report] Chen's human rights by giving him substandard medical attention while detained. Chen has long argued that current Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou [official website; JURIST news archive] is using Chen's trial to distance himself from Chen's anti-China views. The judge assigned Chen a public defender [AFP report], but Chen has said he will not discuss the case with the public defender. Chen will remain in detention for at least two more months.

Chen called the proceedings against him "political persecution" when his trial began [JURIST report] in March. Chen has staged three 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 reports] 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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