TAIPEI (AFP) — Taiwan's former president Chen Shui-bian has not eaten since being detained over a corruption probe in protest at what he insists is a politically-motivated investigation, his lawyer said Thursday.
Chen, whose pro-independence stance in office set him against Beijing, has repeatedly accused the island's China-friendly government of being behind allegations of embezzlement, money laundering, taking bribes and forgery.
Chen has only drunk water since entering a detention centre early Wednesday and has not eaten a proper meal since late Tuesday, lawyer Cheng Wen-long said.
"He intends to stop eating in protest," Cheng told reporters after visiting the former leader, who he said was "in an okay condition now."
A court ordered the politician locked up Wednesday, capping 24 hours of high drama that saw a defiant Chen led away in handcuffs, taken to hospital after saying he had been beaten by police, and then finally put behind bars.
Chen, the first former Taiwanese leader to be arrested, faces allegations of embezzling around 15 million Taiwan dollars (about 450,000 US) while in office. However, he is yet to be charged.
His lawyer said the former president was "willing to stay in the dark prison cell for the people... he said he can sacrifice his life for the 'Republic of Taiwan.'"
"Former president Chen stressed that his arrest is like 'sentencing without a trial,'" Cheng told reporters.
Chen's wheelchair-bound wife Wu Shu-chen also accused prosecutors of taking part in a political witch-hunt, according to lawmaker and family friend Ker Chien-ming.
"Wu is very weak and very upset now... She finds it unacceptable to handcuff and detain the former president," Ker said after visiting her earlier Thursday.
However, prosecutors flatly rejected that politics had interfered in their investigation.
"Nobody has intervened in (Chen's) case... everything is legal," said Chen Yun-nan, a spokesman for the prosecution.
Scores of Chen supporters gathered outside the detention centre where Chen is being held Thursday despite rain.
Chen's office announced plans to stage a mass rally in a Taipei park on November 22 and other supporters said they would protest over the weekend.
In Chen's hometown in southern Taiwan, a man wore a T-shirt printed with Chen's cell number "2630" and handcuffed his hands in protest, television footage showed.
Chen's arrest and detention is the latest development in a long-running corruption probe against the former leader, who has admitted submitting falsified expense forms while in office but said the money was used for "secret diplomatic missions" and not for his personal benefit.
Other members of his family have also been implicated in alleged corruption, among them Chen's son-in-law , who on Thursday had his seven-year jail term and a fine of 30 million Taiwan dollars for insider trading upheld by Taiwan's High Court.
In a separate money laundering case, prosecutors have alleged that 21 million US dollars was sent to Swiss bank accounts belonging to Chen's daughter-in-law in 2007. The funds have since been frozen.
Chen has admitted his wife wired 20 million US dollars abroad from past campaign funds but has denied laundering money.
Chen said on Tuesday that he was being victimised by the China-friendly Kuomintang, which succeeded him after eight years in office, because he was the "biggest stone" blocking the island's reunification with the mainland.
Beijing regards Taiwan as part of its territory and has threatened to invade if it moves towards independence.
Since taking office, Chen's successor President Ma Ying-jeou, has worked quickly to improve ties with China following eight years of tension.
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