Taiwan former president ends hunger strike

February 23rd, 2009 - 6:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Taipei, Feb 23 (DPA) Taiwan’s former president Chen Shui-bian resumed eating Monday, three days after beginning a hunger strike to protest what he claimed was unfair prosecution on corruption charges, officials said.
Lee Ta-chu, deputy director of the Taipei Detention Centre, said Chen ate porridge and cabbage provided by the prison and food brought by his wife, Wu Shu-chen.

He resumed eating after Wu visited and asked him to preserve his energy for a pre-trial hearing set Tuesday, Lee said.

Chen was charged in December with embezzlement, acceptance of bribes, money laundering, document forgery and influence peddling. Wu faces the same charges.

Claiming political persecution, Chen began his hunger strike Friday, taking just water. But he stopped drinking Sunday, prompting his ailing wife to go to the detention house to persuade him to stop fasting.

Chen was first detained in November on suspicion of corruption but was released on bond after being indicted in mid-December.

But prosecutors succeeded in persuading the court to detain him again in late December, citing the possibility that Chen might flee Taiwan and threaten witnesses testifying against him.

In a pretrial hearing in January, Chen pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Friday, Chen’s friend Cheng Cheng-yu, head of the pro-independence South Society, said the ex-president decided to go on hunger strike to protest the government of China-friendly president Ma Ying-jeou.

Cheng said Chen believed the legal proceedings against him were political persecution by Ma to appease China after Chen promoted Taiwan’s independence.

China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province that must be brought back into the Chinese fold, if necessary by force. The two sides split at the end of a civil war in 1949.

Chen was scheduled to appear in court for another round of three-day pretrial hearings beginning Tuesday. His attorney Cheng Wen-lung said Monday that Chen would attend the hearing despite his weak health.

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