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World News

Ex-Taiwan leader Chen released after indictment

Former Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian speaks to the media after he was released on bail at the Taiwan Taipei District Court December 13, 2008. Chen, known for his anti-China rhetoric, has been granted conditional release from jail a day after he was indicted for a raft of corruption-related scandals. REUTERS/Nicky Loh

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Former Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian, known for his anti-China rhetoric, has been granted conditional release from jail a day after he was indicted for a raft of corruption-related scandals.

On Friday, Chen became the first former president in Taiwan to be indicted after prosecutors charged him and more than 10 other family members and aides with corruption, forgery and money laundering. Chen denied any wrongdoing.

Prosecutors said they would recommend the heaviest sentence possible.

In granting his conditional release, the Taipei district court said Chen would need to report to the authorities on any changes in his residence and would be barred from leaving Taiwan.

“I would like to thank all of you for your concern as I spent the toughest and loneliest time of my life in the past 32 days in jail,” Chen told reporters after his release early on Saturday.

Prosecutors said Chen and his wife together had embezzled T$104 million ($3 million) from a special presidential fund when he was president from 2000-2008.

They also accepted bribes totalling around $9 million related to a land procurement deal and another $2.73 million in kickbacks to help a contractor win a tender for a government construction project, prosecutors said.

Supporters of Chen and the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party have protested in the streets, accusing the current administration under President Ma Ying-jeou of using the scandals to plan a political plot against the former leader.

Chen will appear for all court hearings once a trial begins, his lawyer said, after his wife angered the courts by missing 17 court appearances since her indictment on corruption charges in late 2006, citing ill health.

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