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Ex-president, wife get life sentences, also hit with NT$500 mil. in fines

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Former President Chen Shui-bian and his wife Wu Shu-chen were both sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of corruption by a district court.

The Taipei District Court handed down the verdict for the former first couple and a dozen others, as Chen's supporters and opponents rallied outside the courthouse that was being tightly guarded by police.

The court also slapped the couple with heavy fines totaling NT$500 million for stealing from the presidential expense account, taking bribes, and laundering money.

Their son, Chih-chung, and daughter-in-law Huang Jui-ching, were also convicted for their role in the money-laundering.

The son received two years and six months, and his wife one year and eight months with a five-year suspension.

The court said the former president was severely punished because as a national leader and a lawyer he failed to obey the law.

The wheelchair-bound ex-first-lady took advantage of her position and her husband's power to reap huge sums of illegal gains, the court said.

The court described the couple's illegal gains, totaling NT$490 million, as “incredible.”

Chen, who has been in custody since last year, did not show up to receive the verdict. The ex-president remained calm after he was told of the verdict, jail officials said.

He has denied any wrongdoing, claiming the charges were politically motivated.

Wu's attorney, Lin Chi-chung, said it was surprising that teh court came down “unexpectedly” hard on the ex-first lady.

He said he would advise Wu to make an appeal to the high court.

The main opposition Democratic Progressive Party, which urged the court to grant Chen bail pending appeal, said it will decide next week what actions it will take to press for Chen's release.

The high court will decide whether Chen will be released on bail after he files an appeal.

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 Ex-president, wife get life sentences, also hit with NT$500 mil. in fines 
In this Nov. 11, 2008, file photo, former President Chen Shui-bian raises his hands while handcuffed as he is led away from the Taiwan prosecutor's office in Taipei. A court imposed a life sentence on former President Chen Shui-bian after convicting him of corruption yesterday, marking a watershed in the island's turbulent political history. (AP)

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