Ex-Taiwan president's parole delayed - due to traffic

Chen Shui-bian while in office Image copyright AP
Image caption Chen Shui-bian has been suffering from a series of medical conditions - including depression - since stepping down from office in 2008.

A former Taiwanese president's possible release from prison has been delayed - because a courier carrying vital documents got stuck in traffic.

Ex-President Chen Shui-bian - in prison for corruption - was expected to be freed on medical parole on New Year's Eve.

But heavy holiday traffic meant documents relating to his release were delivered too late to be processed.

The parole request will now be dealt with on Monday.

Hunger strike

About 300 supporters of Mr Chen - including his former deputy, Annette Lu - had gathered outside Taichung Prison, expecting his release before the new year began.

Documents relating to Mr Chen's medical parole had left the jail for Taiwan's ministry of justice in the afternoon. They included the recommendation of a medical panel to release the former president.

But because of a traffic jam those papers only arrived at the ministry a few minutes before 6pm, leaving no time for officials to consider them and come to a decision.

A government spokesman said the application to release the former president would now be dealt with first thing on Monday morning, the first day back after the new year break. He denied that officials had dragged their feet in dealing with the case.

Mr Chen, a former lawyer, is serving a 20-year sentence for money laundering and accepting bribes.

He was convicted shortly after stepping down from his second four-year term as Taiwan's president in 2008.

He has been suffering from a series of medical conditions, including depression and Parkinson's disease, and has for some time been trying to convince the authorities to release him on medical grounds. Last year, he tried to kill himself.

Mr Chen's supporters say his prosecution was politically motivated; his former vice-president, Ms Lu, is currently on hunger strike in an effort to draw attention to her former boss's situation.

She was admitted to hospital on New Year's Day suffering from symptoms related to her fast.

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