Page last updated at 10:03 GMT, Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Taiwan's ex-first lady in court

Wu Shu-chen, 10 Feb 09, Taiwan court appearance
The Chen family corruption case has gripped public attention for months

A former Taiwanese first lady has pleaded guilty to money-laundering and forgery but denied embezzlement charges in a high-profile corruption case.

Wu Shu-chen said she had accepted a $2.2m (£1.5m) political donation in connection with a land purchase deal - not a bribe as alleged by prosecutors.

She admitted charges of forging documents in a separate case but denied using the money for personal gain.

She is the wife of ex-president Chen Shui-bian, who was in office 2000-2008.

It was the first time Wu Shu-chen had appeared in court for two years. She was indicted in 2006 for allegedly embezzling 14.8m Taiwan dollars ($440,000) in public funds.

But she collapsed at the start of her trial later that year and has been excused from attending court sessions on health grounds.

Mr Chen, her husband, is currently in jail awaiting trial on the same charges. He has denied the accusations, saying they are politically motivated.

Last month Chen Chih-chung, the Chens' son, pleaded guilty to money laundering as did several other family members.

'Witch hunt'

The case has hurt the image of the Democratic Progressive Party, which backed Mr Chen during his time in office from 2000 to 2008.

Mr Chen has maintained his innocence throughout the investigation, insisting his political opponents are mounting a "witch-hunt" against him, and accusing the new administration of making him "a sacrifice to appease China".

He has been a vocal and persistent critic of the new government's China policies since he left office.

His accusations have been denied by both the Chinese government and Taiwan's current President Ma Ying-jeou, of the Nationalist Kuomintang party (KMT).

Taiwan has been ruled separately from China since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, when the defeated Kuomintang retreated to Taiwan to create a self-governing entity.

But Beijing sees the island as a breakaway province which should be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary.

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