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'Suicidal' ex-president appeals life sentence

TAIPEI -- Former President Chen Shui-bian made his first court appearance Friday since reports emerged Tuesday that he had attempted suicide three times since being first taken into custody in late 2008.

The former president, who is serving a 17.5-year sentence for corruption, arrived at the Taiwan High Court to the cheers of some 20 of his supporters.

Chen was there to appeal a district court decision that found him guilty of pressing his close aides to give false testimony to investigators looking into irregularities about special state affairs funds at his discretionary use during his administration between 2000 and 2008.

Chen's lawyer Shih Yi-lin said before the court that the former president has talked off-topic and showed signs of anxiety recently, and he asked the judges to finish the hearing by noon because a psychiatrist was scheduled to visit Chen at Taipei Prison later in the day.

During the hearing, Chen reiterated his innocence and gave his statements standing up even though the judges gave him the option to sit down.

“It's not easy for me to stay alive until today,” said Chen at the end of the hearing, noting that anyone who had undergone the humiliation he experienced would have thought about death.

Opposition Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Hsu Tain-tsair on Tuesday cited doctors as saying the former president has tried to commit suicide three times since being incarcerated.

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