A Taiwanese prison on Tuesday dismissed a claim that ex-president Chen Shui-bian, currently serving a lengthy jail term, had made more than three suicide attempts.
“The report is absolutely not true,” said Yang Fang-yen, a spokesman for Taipei Prison, which is located just outside the island’s capital and where Chen is incarcerated.
The remark was in response to allegations made by a member of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which Chen once led, that the former president had tried to kill himself at least three times.
“Chen is now in a pretty bad shape. He is struggling between life and death,” DPP legislator Hsu Tien-tsai told AFP. “Chen has made at least three suicide attempts in the prison.”
Hsu said he had his information from Chen Chiao-chicy, a senior psychiatrist at Taipei-based Mackay Memorial Hospital, who visited Chen Shui-bian in June.
The doctor concluded that Chen had developed post-traumatic stress disorder and major depressive disorders, Hsu said.
Hsu’s claim was reported on the front page of the United Evening News, a mass-circulation broadsheet.
Chen Chiao-chicy could not be immediately reached late Tuesday for comment on the report, but a statement allegedly written by him called for the release of the former president.
The jail denied the report, saying that Chen was under constant surveillance and that a suicide attempt would not have gone unnoticed.
“The psychiatrist visited Chen for only half an hour, and since then he has not taken any mental disorder medicines,” Yang said.
Following the doctor’s report, Chen’s family and the DPP Tuesday renewed an appeal for medical parole even though it had been rejected by the jail.
Chen, who is serving a 17-and-a-half-year term on two bribery convictions, also faces several additional graft charges stemming from his period as president between 2000 and 2008.
He and family members have been accused in a complex network of cases of sending political donations and secret diplomatic funds abroad, laundering millions of US dollars and taking kickbacks on government contracts.
The ex-leader says that the legal action against him is a political vendetta carried out by the Beijing-friendly government in retaliation for his policies promoting Taiwan’s independence while in power.