Chen's wife collapses in court

Updated: 2006-12-17 13:26

Wu Shu-chen, wife of Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian, passed out during the first session of her embezzlement and forgery trial yesterday, throwing into chaos the court proceedings that could eventually threaten her husband's hold on power.

Wu collapsed shortly after pleading not guilty to charges that she and three aides to Chen skimmed NT$14.8 million (US$450,000) from a special office fund used to sustain Taiwanese diplomatic activities abroad.

When she and the aides were indicted on November 3, prosecutors said Chen also could be indicted when his immunity lapses after he leaves office.

Two days later, Chen proclaimed his innocence and that of his wife, and told an island-wide television audience he would step down if she was found guilty.

Wu collapsed during a recess in the trial proceedings, held on the second floor of Taipei District Court.

Television pictures showed Wu being carried out of the court by an unidentified woman and loaded into an ambulance. Wu's eyes were closed and she did not appear to be moving.

A doctor at National Taiwan University Hospital said Wu was suffering from low temperature and slow heartbeat, but her condition was not serious.

"We gave her some medicine, and her situation improved," Dr Lin Ho-hsiung said. "She is now under close observation. Her temperature and heartbeat are stable again."

While the legal proceedings against the three Chen aides continued, Taipei District Court spokesman Liu Song-kao said the court would have to postpone the case against Wu if she was unable to attend future sessions.

Wu arrived at the court at 9:25am and did not answer questions from the media about the case.

People began lining outside the court early in the morning to secure one of the few public seats at the trial.

Anti-Chen demonstrators also gathered near the court.

On Wednesday a Taipei judge sentenced Chen Che-nan, a former Chen aide, to 12 years in prison for accepting bribes from a businessman to help him solve legal problems.

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