Several thousand rally in support of Taiwan's Chen
By DEBWU,Associated Press Writer AP - 2 hours 6 minutes ago
TAIPEI, Taiwan - Several thousand demonstrators waved flags and chanted in Taiwan's capital Saturday to protest the detention of former President Chen Shui-bian on graft allegations.
Judges ordered the 57-year-old Chen jailed Nov. 12, and he has refused solid food since then. Chen denies allegations of money laundering and embezzling money from a presidential fund and says the government of President Ma Ying-jeou is persecuting him for his anti-China views.
Many supporters waved small flags at a Taipei park Saturday reading "Taiwan is our country." Some wore headbands saying "Stop judicial persecution" and chanted "Cheers for A-bian," Chen's nickname.
One of the protesters, Jimmy Chi, a 51-year-old civil engineer, said Chen's detention is politically motivated because his anti-China stance is interfering with Ma's efforts to pursue closer ties with China.
"It is unfair that (Chen) is being detained even before he is sentenced," Chi said. "He is being persecuted because he supports Taiwan independence."
Ma denied Chen's allegation that he is meddling in the case.
"I am not trying to manipulate the judiciary," Ma said Saturday.
Since his inauguration in May, Ma has sought closer trade and transportation links with Beijing, and reduced tension across the 100-mile (160-kilometer) Taiwan Strait.
Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949. Beijing continues to claim Taiwan as part of its territory, and threatens to attack if the island moves to formalize its de facto independence.
In August, Chen admitted he broke the law by not fully disclosing campaign donations he had received, after a Nationalist lawmaker alleged that Chen's son and daughter-in-law moved $21 million to Switzerland in 2007.
Prosecutors believe Chen may have amassed millions of dollars more and say they have enough evidence to hold him as they prepare a formal indictment.
Under Taiwanese law, Chen can be held for up to four months while prosecutors pursue his case.
The corruption probe began soon after Chen finished his eight years in office in May, forcing him to withdraw from his Democratic Progressive Party in disgrace.
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