Taiwan's ex-president stuttering during video trial

Taiwan's ex-president stuttering during video trial
Former Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian.

TAIPEI - Former President Chen Shiu-bian reportedly stuttered as he pleaded for yet another sick leave in a video court session held by the Taiwan High Court yesterday.

Chen, who is currently behind bars in Peide Prison after being found guilty for corruption and abuse of authority during his terms in office, has asked for sick leaves in every single court appearance since being put under medical care. The Taiwan High Court questioned Chen in a video trial over allegations that he had abetted former Secretaries General Ma Yung-chen and Lin Te-hsun into forging evidence in Chen's favour.

Chen had been sentenced to four months behind bars in the first hearing, which was then shortened to two months; he was later acquitted in the second instance - a verdict that was deemed unsatisfactory by the High Court last year. The case was then retried.

The video session was Chen's first, as the High Court wished to obtain information on Chen's current physical condition and decide whether he was fit to attend future hearings.

In the video recording released by the court, Chen was shown wielding a cane with two paramedics at his side, and seemed in good spirits. But when he spoke, Chen's voice wavered and he repeated his words in a manner similar to a stutter. Despite stating beforehand that he respected the law and the court, Chen repeatedly stated that he was feeling unwell, and accused the presiding judge of being unjust for forcing him to attend the video trial.

The presiding judge rebutted Chen's pleas for a sick leave, saying that a trial can only suspended if a defendant is mentally unstable or is unable to attend the trial due to an illness. "Feeling unwell is not a reason sufficient enough to halt the trial," the judge said.

Chen is suffering from major depression and Parkinson's Disease; his medication makes him prone to mood swings and inarticulate speech, said Chen's lawyers Cheng Wen-lung and Shih Yi-lin. Cheng and Shih also claimed that Chen's attending physician, Chou Yuan-hua, was in favour of having Chen receive treatment at home.

Cheng compared Chen's case to the recent political disputes that involved Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng fighting for his speakership against the Kuomintang; "Both are political struggles," Cheng said.

The panel of judges called an end to the trial after considering Chen's physical condition.

"We will still apply for sick leaves in future trials," Shih said.

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