The annual congress of the Liberal International passed a statement calling for medical parole for jailed former President Chen Shui-bian, the opposition Democratic Progressive Party said Saturday.
The DPP is a member of the association, which groups over 60 Liberal parties from all over the world. The organization is holding its 58th Congress in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, October 17-21.
DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang sent the party’s international affairs chief Liu Shih-chung and Peng Ming-min Foundation board member Yang Huang Mei-hsing to the conference to explain the latest developments in Chen’s case and to garner international support for his cause.
After discussions, the assembly passed a unanimous motion calling on Taiwan to allow medical parole so Chen could receive the best possible health care.
Chen, sentenced to 17-and-a-half years in prison on corruption charges, has been spending the past month at the Veterans General Hospital in Taipei, first to undergo tests which showed him to be suffering from a severe depression and later to receive psychiatric treatment for that condition.
Prominent physicians have spearheaded a petition campaign to ask the government to allow Chen treatment outside the Taipei Prison, but the authorities have so far turned down the request.
In addition to DPP leaders, the effort has also received public support from a host of organizations and prominent Taiwanese. Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin, a leading member of the ruling Kuomintang, also said he thought Chen should be eligible for medical parole.
Physicians say a host of health problems for the former president were caused by his cramped living conditions at the jail in Kueishan, Taoyuan County, and by the lack of movement. Prison officials say they have already accommodated his requests and he is being kept as separate from other prisoners as possible for his own safety.
Both the prison and Chen recently agreed that he would continue to receive treatment at the Veterans General Hospital despite earlier objections to the institution’s close ties to the KMT and the military.
In a statement released by his office, Chen recently said that a certain level of trust had grown between him and the medical team in charge of his treatment at the hospital. As a result, he agreed to stay there for the rest of his psychiatric course.
Friends and relatives had been looking for alternatives, in particular the Mackay Memorial Hospital in Tamshui, New Taipei City, and the Kaohsiung Medical University Chung-Ho Memorial Hospital in the southern city, where most of Chen’s close relatives live.
The campaign for medical parole has also been joined by overseas groups, including members of the US Congress and US-based human rights activists. Some of them visited Taiwan to obtain more details about Chen’s situation.
Separately, a wide range of prominent personalities have also called for a special amnesty for the former president. In a reply to a lawmaker’s question, Premier Sean Chen recently said he agreed with the statement that an amnesty for Chen might reduce political tension and confrontation between the KMT and the DPP.