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September 25, 2017

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Ex-President Chen to stay detained

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Three Taiwan high court judges met at short notice yesterday to rule on whether former President Chen Shui-bian, sentenced to life in prison for corruption, should be released on bail.

Presiding judge Teng Chen-chiu began a hearing on Chen's appeal to end his three-month detention at 6:15 p.m., after the Supreme Court accepted and remanded it to the court of appeals.

As of press time, the hearing continued.

Chen was taken from the detention center at Tucheng to the Taipei courthouse, where he met dozens of "Redshirt" protesters who demanded he be put behind bars for as long as the court wants. The protesters were remnants of those who wore red shirts and took to the streets to demand President Chen's resignation in 2006. The former president was ordered to be placed under custody on Sept. 24, when his third detention term expired. Along with his wife, Chen was convicted of corruption and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Supporters, far outnumbering the protesters, unfurled banners calling for Chen's immediate release. They had a brief skirmish with police guards at the courthouse next door to the Office of the President.

In remanding the case, the Supreme Court refuted Teng and his two assistant charges who ruled the detention was necessary on the grounds that Chen was given a life sentence, familiar with an escape route out of the country and in possession of a cache of dirty money abroad.

"A life sentence, though severe, is not cause enough for one to escape the country," the Supreme Court ruled.

Though he served as president for eight years, the Supreme Court continued, Chen cannot be considered familiar with an escape route abroad.

Moreover, the Supreme Court said, the stash of cash abroad is not necessarily the money Chen was accused of laundering.

President Chen appeared in court without handcuffs. Dressed in a suit, Chen walked into court smiling. He looked confidant that he would be released on bail. One of his strongest supporters, Huang Ching-lin, said outside the courthouse he is raising enough cash to bail the former president out.

"We'll gather together more than enough cash," said Huang, director of the Democratic Progressive Party's Taipei City chapter.

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