The family of late army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) yesterday vowed to appeal after the Taoyuan District Court gave 13 military officials tried in connection with Hung’s death what many viewed as relatively light sentences.
The court on Friday last week found the 13 guilty of abusing their power by restricting Hung’s personal freedom by placing him in disciplinary confinement, and sentenced them to between three and eight months in prison.
“While we had great expectations about the district court, we did not demand specific sentences for the perpetrators. However, the ruling was incomprehensible and shocking to us,” Hu Su-chen (胡素真), Hung’s mother, told a news conference at the Legislative Yuan.
DPP Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女) said the court failed to meet public expectations and to evaluate the case as the result of a structured and collaborative action leading to crime.
The family and the team of volunteer lawyers have no regrets about seeing an end to the military judicial system and the case’s transfer to civil courts, which was facilitated by the massive social response to Hung’s death, lead lawyer Wellington Koo (顧立雄) said.
Past trials, such as those of Nazi suspects for the massacre of the Jews, have taught the world that “those farthest from the killings bear the most responsibility,” but the ruling in Hung’s case did not reflect this widely adopted international theory, Koo said.
Wang Shi (王希), spokesperson for Citizen 1985, the primary organizer of a rally of 250,000 people in August last year to protest the military’s alleged attempt to cover up the case, said the ruling was a “systematic error that distributed responsibility among the defendants.”
Citizen 1985 would continue to monitor the case and has not ruled out another rally, he said.
The DPP caucus said the case showed the need for full judicial reform as the ruling in the first trial has been questioned by the public.
DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) told a press conference that errors in the judgement started with military prosecutors indicting the military suspects on different charges, thereby lessening the responsibility of each defendant.
After the case was transferred from the military court to the civilian court, the judges failed to demand that prosecutors bring up additional charges or change applicable laws, Ker said.
Those mistakes were why the cause of death — whether it was an accident or a result of the behavior or action of others — is still under debate now, he said.
“Given the public’s lack of trust in the judiciary, we say that reforms are needed to save the nation’s judicial system,” Ker said.
Two major reforms are needed: the introduction of a jury system and the enforcement of constitutional petitions to empower the people so that unjust rulings could be remedied, Ker said.