TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) _ A Taiwan court handed multiple death sentences today to a man who took a South African diplomat's family hostage after months on the run as Taiwan's most-wanted fugitive.

Chen Chin-hsin was sentenced to death by the Panchiao District Court in Taipei for four killings, three kidnappings and 18 rapes.

Chen was expressionless and listened quietly as the verdict was read. Judge Tuan Chin-jung said the court would appeal for Chen even if he didn't.

The verdict ``shall serve as an austere warning to those who harbor any intention to commit crimes,'' Tuan told reporters.

Police began hunting for Chen after the April kidnapping and murder of a popular entertainer's teen-age daughter, a high-profile case that prompted a public outcry over Taiwan's soaring crime rate and forced the interior minister to resign.

After six months on the run, Chen entered South African military attache E.G.M. Alexander's home on Nov. 18 and took five family members hostage. He demanded freedom for his wife, brother-in-law and two friends, all in custody on charges of aiding him in various crimes.

Chen surrendered 24 hours later, when authorities promised to reinvestigate the cases against his relatives and friends.

According to the verdict, Chen was convicted of kidnapping and murdering the entertainer's daughter with two other suspects who were killed in shootouts with police.

Chen and one of the men also murdered a plastic surgeon and two nurses after forcing the doctor at gunpoint to surgically alter his accomplice's face, it said.

While on the run, Chen kidnapped two businessmen and freed them after receiving a $280,000 ransom, the verdict said.

Chen also was convicted of raping 18 women, injuring a policemen in a shootout and committing several robberies.

The court also sentenced Chang Su-chen, Chen's wife, to nine months in prison for helping Chen kidnap the teen-ager. Lin Chih-neng, a friend of Chen, was sentenced to one year in prison for aiding him kidnap and murder the girl.