TAIPEI: Taiwan’s ailing former president Chen Shui-bian was freed from prison on medical parole on Monday, after serving six years for graft relating to his presidency.
Chen, 64, who led Taiwan from 2000 to 2008, will be released from a prison hospital this afternoon due to his “medical condition,” said deputy justice minister Chen Ming-tang, but will be subject to monthly health checks.
The former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leader, who ended 50 years of Kuomintang rule when he came to power, was sentenced to life in prison in 2009 for money-laundering and bribery – a term reduced to 20 years after appeals.
Chen was transferred to a prison hospital in April last year after being diagnosed with severe depression, suspected Parkinson’s disease and other conditions.
He attempted suicide in June, trying to hang himself with a towel in a bathroom of the prison hospital.
“The [independent]medical team think Chen needs to leave his present location where his medical treatment is not helpful to his condition, so a decision has now been made to parole him for a month,” said Justice Minister Chen after a parole board meeting on Monday morning.
Chen’s freedom would be contingent on his medical condition, he added.
“He is expected to leave jail this afternoon,” he said.
Chen’s supporters had recently stepped up their campaign for his early release.
His former deputy, Annette Lu, 70, undertook a three-day hunger strike in a tent in central Taipei in December demanding he be freed.
Chen insists that the charges against him are part of a politically motivated vendetta by the current Kuomintang government, in retaliation for his eight years in power when he promoted the idea of Taiwan declaring its independence from China.
As public fears grow over Chinese influence on the island, the Kuomintang was routed in the island’s biggest ever local elections in November – seen as a key barometer before the 2016 presidential race.