TAIPEI, Taiwan (CNN) -- A Taiwan court early Tuesday ordered ex-President Chen Shui-bian, who is facing corruption charges, back to jail after deeming him a flight risk.

Chen had been free on bail, but prosecutors sought his return to state custody.

After 12 hours of deliberation, a panel of three district court judges approved the request at 3 a .m. Taiwan time. Chen was immediately taken to jail.

The island's first former president to ever face prosecution, Chen was freed earlier in December after spending a month in jail while prosecutors prepared his indictment on several corruption charges, including embezzlement and accepting bribes.

Judges ordered Chen released after the indictment was formally presented, saying they did not believe he was a flight risk.

However, Taiwan's high court was not satisfied with the decision and assigned a new judge to the case.

Chen's attorney, Jen Wen Long, told reporters after the court order: "We question the work of the Taipei district court. Changing the judge is an interference with the justice system."

Chen, whose term ended in May, is accused of embezzling about $18 million. A trial date has not been set in the case.

Prosecutors allege he also took bribes, laundered money and illegally removed classified documents from the president's office.

Chen, 58, has denied any wrongdoing and insists the charges are politically motivated. His party favors independence for Taiwan, while the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou favors closer ties with mainland China -- from which the island split amid civil war in 1949.

If convicted, Chen faces 25 years or more in prison, although prosecutors did not seek any specific jail time in their indictment.

Thirteen others, including Chen's wife, son, daughter-in-law and brother-in-law, also were indicted.

Prosecutors have alleged that Chen's son has a Swiss bank account containing $22 million in what they believe is illegal proceeds.


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