[JURIST] The Taiwan High Court [official website, in Chinese] on Friday reduced the life sentence [press release, in Chinese] of former Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] to 20 years, finding that he had not embezzled as much money as previously thought. Additionally, the court reduced the fine imposed on Chen from NT $200 million (USD $6.2 million) to NT $170 million (USD $5.25 million) and reduced the suspension of his civil liberties to 10 years. Chen's office has stated that he is very disappointed with the ruling [BBC report] and will appeal. The court was expected to rule on Chen's bail request on Friday as well, but has postponed that decision, stating that it will inform Chen in writing of its decision in the near future. Legal experts have stated that under the new sentence, Chen could be released after only serving 10 years [AFP report] in prison. The court also reduced the life sentence of Chen's wife, Wu Shu-chen, to 20 years, as well as those of the couple's son and daughter-in-law. Wu had been sentenced to life imprisonment on similar charges as her husband, and her original fine of NT $300 million (USD $9.3 million) was reduced to NT $200 million (USD $6.2 million).
Chen was originally found guilty on corruption charges [JURIST report] and sentenced to life in prison in September. Chen's wife was also given a life sentence [CNA report] after the pair were convicted on charges of embezzlement, receiving bribes, forgery, and money laundering. A three-judge panel of the Taipei District Court [official website, in Chinese] also sentenced their son to two-and-a-half years in prison and their daughter-in-law to one year and eight months. Ruling on another indictment against Chen, the district court on Tuesday found him not guilty of embezzling [JURIST report] USD $330,000 from the Foreign Affairs Ministry [official website] to finance his son's studies in the US. The court held that the indictment was without credibility [CNA report], was contradictory, and was not supported by the facts presented. Prosecutor General Huang Shyh-ming said that he may appeal to the High Court. Chen has maintained his innocence against all charges, claiming that current Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou [official website] is using Chen's trial to distance himself from Chen's anti-China views. Chen was also indicted in December for allegedly embezzling USD $20 million from banks [JURIST report] that sought to protect themselves during Chen's financial reform program.