Taiwan's Lee rejects charges

2012-08-10 07:24

Taipei - Taiwan's ex-leader Lee Teng-hui on Friday defended himself in court against corruption charges stemming from his presidency between 1988 and 2000.

"I told the judge the indictment is baseless... I didn't do anything," the 89-year-old Lee told reporters after attending a hearing in the Taipei district court.

Lee was indicted last year on charges of embezzling $7.79m from the government's diplomatic slush funds while in office to help set up a private think-tank.

He is the second former Taiwanese president to face graft charges, and his successor Chen Shui-bian is currently serving a jail term of 17 years and six months on two bribery convictions.

Lee still enjoys support from the island's pro-independence camp and has been a vocal critic of the government's China-friendly policies.

He has accused the government of "inventing" the charges to persecute a high-profile critic, prompting incumbent Ma Ying-jeou to deny meddling in his graft case.

Lee irked Beijing during his presidency by promoting a separate identity for Taiwan. Beijing fired missiles near the island in 1995 and 1996, triggering a US decision to send two carrier groups to the area.

Taiwan and China split in 1949 after a civil war but Beijing still sees the self-ruled island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

However, ties have improved markedly in recent years since Ma came to power in 2008.