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Last Updated: Friday, 15 December 2006, 09:46 GMT
Taiwan first lady faints at trial
Wu Shu-chen is carried from the courthouse in an image from Taiwan's Set TV station
Wu Shu-chen was carried from the courthouse to an ambulance
The wife of Taiwan's embattled president has fainted during her court appearance in Taipei, where she is on trial for embezzlement and forgery.

Wu Shu-chen, who has used a wheelchair since she was hit by a truck in an apparent attempt to kill her in 1985, was taken to hospital after collapsing.

The first lady denies illegally using state funds for personal expenses.

Her husband faces similar accusations but is protected from prosecution by presidential immunity.

He has promised to resign if she is found guilty.

Under observation

Wu Shu-chen and her co-defendants all pleaded not guilty to charges of corruption, forgery and perjury when they appeared at court in the capital Taipei.

SCANDAL TIMELINE
President Chen Shui-ban  and his wife Wu Shu-chen (left) in October 2006
March 2004: President Chen narrowly wins re-election
May 2006: President's son-in-law held over insider trading claims. Charged in July
Allegations of improper conduct involving Chen's wife and senior aides also surface
June: Chen cedes some powers to PM amid outcry
Unprecedented opposition motion to oust him, which fails
September: Two weeks of pro and anti-Chen marches
Opposition launch new bid to recall Chen. Again fails
October: Wu Shu-chen cleared of accepting shop vouchers in return for influence
November: Wu Shu-chen charged with corruption over handling of secret presidential funds
Prosecutors say enough evidence to indict Chen, but he is protected by presidential immunity
December: Wu Shu-chen's trial starts. She pleads not guilty, but collapses during a recess and is taken to hospital

But 90 minutes after her arrival at court, during a recess, the first lady reported feeling faint. Television pictures showed her being rushed by ambulance to a nearby hospital.

A doctor at the hospital said she was suffering from an irregularly low temperature and slow heartbeat, but her condition was not life threatening, the Associated Press reports.

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

Wu Shu-chen, who is paralysed from the waist down, is believed to have been ill for some time.

Concerns about her health led to doubts over whether she would be fit enough to stand trial, the BBC's Caroline Gluck in Taipei reports.

It was not clear if the president's wife would be able to return to court later on Friday to continue the trial.

She faces a maximum sentence of seven years in prison if she is found guilty.

Series of scandals

Taiwan's first lady and the three aides were indicted by prosecutors last month.

The charges relate to the handling of a secret presidential fund used for diplomatic work overseas.

Taiwan's First Lady Wu Shu-chen arrives at court on 15 December 2006
Wu Shu-chen denies the charges against her

Officials say around US$500,000 could not be properly accounted for, and accuse the president's family of using it for their own use.

Mr Chen has denied the allegations, and claims the use of false invoices was to cover expenses incurred in secret diplomatic programmes.

The trial is being seen as a test of the independence of the judiciary, our correspondent says.

President Chen has been undermined by a series of scandals involving his family and his office in recent months.

He has already survived three opposition attempts, including one last month, to remove him from office.

Earlier this week, another former presidential aide was sentenced to 12 years for accepting bribes.

Later this month, another court will deliver its verdict in a case of insider trading involving the president's son-in-law.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Taiwan's first lady is carried from the courthouse



SEE ALSO
Taiwan's Chen in corruption case
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Taiwan's Chen denies graft charge
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Viewpoints: Taiwan graft scandal
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Profile: Chen Shui-bian
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Country profile: Taiwan
11 Aug 06 |  Country profiles



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