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Former U.S. official urges release of jailed ex-Taiwanese president

2012/08/20 21:05:22

Taipei, Aug. 20 (CNA) Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark called for the immediate release of former President Chen Shui-bian from Taipei Prison on medical grounds after visiting him Monday.

Chen needs to be given medical treatment immediately and continuously until he regains his strength, Clark said when asked whether or not Chen should be released on parole for medical treatment.

"Medical parole is one way but he (Chen) should be freed of the harassment that he's involved in and these prosecutions have gone up and down in such a strange and seemingly illegal way," Clark said, after his one-hour meeting with the former president from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

The DPP has repeatedly said that Chen's health condition is deteriorating and has called for Chen to be released on medical parole to receive better treatment.

The Ministry of Justice, however, has said Chen's condition does not qualify him for medical parole.

The ministry has said that according to the law, only inmates with serious diseases that cannot be dealt with by doctors at the prison and who are too ill to take care of themselves can apply for medical parole.

Chen is currently serving a 17.5-year sentence for taking bribes in a land development project and for influencing the appointment of a chairwoman of the Taipei 101 skyscraper.

Asked about Chen's health condition, Clark said he was impressed by Chen's courage and strength, but described him as "obviously suffering from confinement."

Clark was accompanied by former DPP lawmaker Chai Trong-rong and the former president's son Chen Chih-chung during his visit to Taipei Prison.

Clark also greeted hundreds of Chen's supporters who were gathered outside of the prison in northern Taiwan.

After learning more about Chen's physical and mental health, Clark said he will present a report to the U.S. Congress on the issue.

"I hope we can build congressional support in the United States," he said.

A lawyer and human rights activist, Clark visited Taiwan in the 1980s and 1990s to join pro-democracy groups in promoting the country's democratization.

(By Elaine Hou)