Eighteen indicted in conscript’s death

BLAME::Hung Chung-chiu’s family said they do not blame the non-commissioned officers so much as the military officials who should bear the major responsibility

By Rich Chang  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Aug 01, 2013 - Page 1

Military prosecutors yesterday indicted 18 senior officers and non-commissioned officers over the death of army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) on July 4.

Staff Sergeant Chen Yi-hsun (陳毅勳) of the 269th Brigade, who oversaw Hung’s punishment while in confinement, faces the heaviest charge for allegedly abusing a subordinate to death by forcing him to do excessive exercises. He could face life imprisonment if convicted.

Chief military prosecutor Major General Tsao Chin-sheng (曹金生) said there was no evidence that Chen was directed by his superiors to abuse Hung, who died of heatstroke due to the punishing exercises he was forced to do in hot weather while being held in disciplinary confinement for bringing a camera-equipped cellphone onto his base on June 28.

Major General Shen Wei-chih (沈威志), the former commander of Hung’s brigade, was the highest-ranking military official indicted in the case. He was charged with failing to check Hung’s physical and mental condition and for heedlessly approving his disciplinary confinement.

Shen, former deputy commander of the 542nd Brigade Colonel Ho Chiang-chung (何江忠), company commander Major Hsu Shin-cheng (徐信正), vice company director Captain Liu Yen-chun (劉延俊), First Sergeant Chen Yi-jen (陳以人) and Staff Sergeant Fan Tso-hsien (范佐憲) were charged with “collectively imposing illegal punishment on a subordinate” and offenses against personal liberty, the indictment read, with prosecutors asking the military court to give them heavy sentences.

Staff Sergeant Hsia Chih-ming (蕭志明) and Sergeant Lo Chi-yuan (羅濟元) — the director and vice director of the 269th Brigade’s detention center respectively — Sergeant Lo Chi-yuan (羅濟元), Corporal Lee Nien-tsu (李念祖) and seven other soldiers serving at the center were charged with negligence for failing to take appropriate measures while Hung was in solitary confinement to prevent his death, the indictment said.

First Lieutenant Kao Yu-lung (郭毓龍) was charged with transferring Hung to solitary confinement without authorization.

According to the indictment, on June 24, Liu, Hsu and Fan discussed how to discipline Hung after finding that he had forged a physical training grade on May 6. It said that when they called Hung to discuss the forgery, Hung said he did not want to leave a bad mark on his record as he planned to take the civil service examinations in the future.

To make up for what he did, Hung said he would serve as squad leader for a week, but later skipped out on his duty, saying he was to be discharged soon. The three got their revenge on Hung by putting him in confinement, the indictment said.

Hung’s sister, Hung Tzu-yung (洪慈庸), yesterday said that her family was disappointed with the indictment, adding that the “motive” for the officers’ actions was not clearly stated in the indictment.

It was unfair that the indictment brought most sergeant-level personnel to court, she said, adding that her family did not so much blame the non-commissioned officers as the military officials who should bear the major responsibility in the case.

Wellington Koo (顧立雄), the family’s lawyer, said the indictment punished mostly personnel serving in the detention center, but did not charge higher military officials who authorized Hung’s punishment.

Lu Meng-ying (呂孟穎), the discharged medical officer involved in the case was not on the list of military officers indicted over Hung’s death but will undergo an evaluation to determine whether he was guilty of medical negligence, Military High Court Chief Prosecutor Shih Sheng-te (史勝德) said.

Lu, a conscript discharged on July 6 — the same day Hung was supposed to have been discharged — was the medical officer who treated Hung when he collapsed from heatstroke while in the brig. If any medical negligence is found, Lu will be prosecuted, Shih added.

The Taiwan Medical Association said it would provide every necessary assistance to Lu during the evaluation and praised the former medical officer for his professional judgment and his handling of Hung’s case despite a lack of data on the patient and insufficient medical equipment.

Additional reporting by CNA