The sister of army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) yesterday released an audio recording to back up the family’s claims that military prosecutors had not conducted a thorough investigation and said the family had “given up hope” of military justice after a “flawed and hasty” indictment was announced on Wednesday.
At a press conference in Greater Taichung, Hung Tzu-yung (洪慈庸) played a recording of a July 4 conversation between family members and Army 542nd Brigade Captain Wu Yi-chu (吳翼竹), chief counselor of Hung Chung-chiu’s company.
In the recording, Wu told the family that he was aware the company’s non-commissioned officers had bribed a hospital nurse to speed up the corporal’s physical exam report.
The report played a pivotal role in Hung Chung-chiu being sent to a military detention center on June 28. He died of heat stroke on July 4 after a series of strenuous exercises.
The recording would appear to contradict the investigation report released by the Ministry of National Defense and the Supreme Military Court Prosecutors’ Office, which said no bribery has been found in the physical exam process.
“We do not think that the prosecutors have tried to find the motives behind my brother’s death and we find it difficult to trust the military after the hasty investigation… They were insincere with their pledge [to find the truth] and we have given up hope in the military judicial system,” Hung Tzu-yung told reporters.
Meanwhile, at the Legislative Yuan, Minister of National Defense Andrew Yang (楊念祖), who assumed office yesterday, denied that the military judiciary had tried with Wednesday’s indictment to protect high-ranking officers by making non-commissioned officers bear responsibility for the case.
“Actually, a one-star general and several other high-ranking officers have also been indicted over the incident, he said.
However, despite being pressed by lawmakers, Yang declined to comment further on the indictment except to say that the ministry could only respect the indictments drawn up by military prosecutors and the legal system would determine if the charges were appropriate.
Yang said the Hung family could submit its audio recording to military prosecutors and demand that the investigation be reopened.
After lawmakers panned the ministry on the military’s appeal system, which many believe contributed to the corporal’s death, Yang said the system was effective and provided multiple channels for seeking help, such as the 1985 hotline, the ministry’s Military Personnel Rights Committee and an e-mail address that he and his aides could access directly to handle complaints.
He said he would step down if there is a repeat of the Hung incident.
“I assure all of you that there will be no more cases similar to the death of Corporal Hung Chung-chiu. If there are, I will take full responsibility and step down,” he said.
He also denied claims that the ministry had wiretapped either the mobile phones of the Hung family or organizers of a protest planned for tomorrow against the government’s handling of the corporal’s death.
Yang said that under a plan the ministry is drafting to improve the human rights situation in the military, all applications for detention or reviews would be handled by a company-level personnel review meeting and approved by superior commanders and the army corps.
The ministry is also planning to establish a disciplinary court to review all detention and punishment orders, he said.
Additional reporting by CNA