Political Prisoner Report, Jan. 8, 2013. Former President Chen Shui-bian sat expressionless several feet in front of me in the middle of his hospital cell. We were in a psychiatric unit at a Republic of China government hospital in Taipei where Chen is now incarcerated for alleged corruption.
On a mission to learn about the fairness of Chen’s trial I asked Chen about the key witness against him, Jeffery Koo, Jr.
“The prosecution made a deal and washed away criminal charges on a fugitive, who fled to Japan. The deal was to testify that I took a bribe that I never did,” explained Chen.
“Koo’s conscience later got to him and he came clear but I am still in jail. The press has cooperated with the prosecution on this and the truth is not known. This is vital,” urged Chen.
Chen Shui-bian has faced a web of charges and appeals by prosecutors bent on keeping him in jail. Keeping track of the allegations facing Chen almost requires a checklist. I asked Chen about his current charges facing him.
“In the moment I am facing eighteen years to life imprisonment. Life imprisonment may be anticipated because of the perjured facts of the old case. They try to involve my son.” Chen complained, “They said they need new evidence to ensure prosecution and they grind and grind and grind. “
“Former candidate James Soong used the remainder of his campaign funds for his son and it was okay. Others are treated in different ways. There are double standards. They lost the first time and now they are trying again.”
“I am innocent,” declared Chen Shui-bian.
I replied to Chen with a question, “You once said you did something not permitted by law, any explanation?”
Chen answered: “In 2008, what I did was permissible by law and not subject to prosecution. After the campaign it is required to account for how you spent the funds, and if you have given away any extra. After the election a report is required. Because of error my accounts did not balance.”
“I have been misquoted and misunderstood on what I said and meant. I was trying to speak with an honest conscience,” said Chen.
I asked Chen, “You were a political prisoner in the 1980’s, are you a political prisoner now?”
Chen replied stoically, “In the 1980s a magazine I started made me a political prisoner. I was sentenced for trying to form a new political party but they didn’t call it that, they called it libel instead of free speech. In 1986, I was sentenced to serve months in jail. Now people can call me a political prisoner then but at the time it was considered libel not political. Freedom of speech should allow for the formation for a collaborative new political party.”
“Now I am in jail for doing something which was not corrupt but it cannot be called political. It must wait for time to pass before people can call it political.”
“I am a political prisoner,” said Chen Shui-bian.
“What message would you like me to carry to the English-speaking world?” I asked Chen.
“Treatment of an outgoing president should be upfront and honest. No one in the western democratic world has been treated like I have been treated. I have been cruelly treated. An outgoing president should not be treated in such a cruel way to promote “One Taiwan = One China”. I do not consider myself to really have committed any crimes.”
Chen was blunt, “I was not corrupt.”
“This is a case of collaborative prisoner persecution. There is criticism about the system and this is not acceptable to the higher ups. I have not taken any bribes.”
Chen urged, “The court system must be changed where one judge can find innocence while another sentences to life. The judges should not be political.”
Following the interview Chen shook my hand and aologized he did not remember my 2010 visit, “I am sorry but I have lost some of my memory in prison.”