Taiwan court suspends trial of ailing ex-president

TAIPEI (AFP) - A Taiwanese court has suspended the trial of former president Chen Shui-bian on the ground that he is suffering from depression, dementia and other health problems, officials said Saturday.

Chen, who is already serving a 20-year jail term for corruption, has been on trial since last year for allegedly taking illegal possession of confidential documents while he was in office.

However, Taipei district court said it had decided to suspend the proceedings after a medical team found that the ailing Chen was unfit to stand trial.

"The defendant suffers from language impairment, minor dementia, severe depression and is suicidal ... he obviously lacks the capabilities to stand trail and cannot attend court due to his illness," it said in a statement.

The decision follows Chen's transferral to a prison hospital in central Taiwan in April to continue serving his sentence.

Doctors have recommended home care for the 62-year-old after he was diagnosed with severe depression, a nerve disorder and other health conditions last year.

But the justice ministry has said Chen does not qualify for immediate parole on medical grounds as he can receive necessary treatment at the prison hospital.

Chen and his family have been accused of laundering millions of dollars by sending political donations and secret diplomatic funds abroad, and taking kickbacks on government contracts during his 2000-2008 presidency.

Chen was first sentenced to life imprisonment in 2009 on multiple graft convictions. His sentence was later reduced after appeals.

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