Taiwan ex-leader Chen tries to kill himself in jail

Taiwan's former president Chen Shui-bian has tried to commit suicide in the prison where he is serving a 20-year sentence for corruption, the justice ministry said Monday.

Chen attempted to hang himself with a towel in a bathroom at the jail in the central city of Taichung Sunday night, but was prevented by a guard, the ministry said in a statement.

It said medical personnel were immediately called to check his condition and no abnormalities were found.

Chen was transferred to a prison hospital in Taichung in April from a public hospital in Taipei, where he had spent several months being treated for depression and other health problems.

Doctors have recommended home care for the 62-year-old, who has been diagnosed with severe depression, a nerve disorder and other conditions, according to medical documents released by his office.

The justice ministry has said home care is not an option for inmates, while Chen does not qualify for immediate parole on medical grounds because he can receive treatment at the prison hospital.

Chen's family and supporters have angrily accused the government of President Ma Ying-jeou of making a politically-motivated decision to deny him medical parole.

Chen was convicted of corruption and money-laundering relating to his 2000-2008 presidency -- charges which he says stem from a vendetta by the current Beijing-friendly government.

His own administration promoted the concept of Taiwan's formal independence from China, a stance which enraged Beijing.

Chen and his family were accused of laundering millions of dollars by sending political donations and secret diplomatic funds abroad, and of taking kickbacks on government contracts.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2009 but the term was later reduced after appeals.