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Ex-president of Taiwan detained in scandal

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SHANGHAI — Chen Shui-bian, the former president of Taiwan and an ardent advocate of continued independence for the island, was detained by the police there late Tuesday after prosecutors sought his formal arrest on corruption and money-laundering charges.

Chen, who served two terms as president but was voted out of office in March with his administration mired in a corruption scandal, was led to court in handcuffs on Tuesday afternoon after several hours of questioning by prosecutors in Taipei, Taiwan's capital.

The former president paused briefly before television cameras, raised his arms over his head and defiantly shouted, "Long live Taiwan" and "Political persecution."

Late Tuesday evening, however, Taipei television reported that the court hearing had been suspended and that Chen had been taken to a hospital complaining that he had been roughed up by the police.

Chen, 57, has denied wrongdoing in the case and accused his successor, President Ma Ying-jeou, and the governing Kuomintang of a politically motivated attack. Officials of the Kuomintang, the Nationalist Party, insist that they have not influenced prosecutors in the case.

The detention is the latest chapter in a series of political dramas that have been unfolding in Taiwan for a few years as the island's two major parties, the Kuomintang and the Democratic Progressive Party, have bickered over relations with China and traded accusations of corruption.

Last year, Ma was indicted for misuse of funds while serving as mayor of Taipei, which forced him to step down. The Supreme Court later cleared him of the charges, paving the way for his presidential candidacy.

Chen, one of Taiwan's most controversial political figures, was first elected in 2000. A populist with a penchant for fiery rhetoric, he was known during his two terms for his strong opposition to Beijing and his insistence that Taiwan, which separated from China in 1949, was not a province of the mainland.

During his second term, prosecutors began investigating whether Chen, his senior aides and his family members, including his wife, were involved in embezzling millions of dollars in campaign funds.

Chen's approval ratings plummeted late in his second term, and there were huge protests in Taipei against his rule.

Ma, who took office in May, has pushed for closer ties with mainland China and opened the possibility of eventual reunification.