The Supreme Court yesterday upheld a not-guilty verdict for Major General Shen Wei-chih (沈威志), who was accused of unlawful imprisonment and disciplining subordinates by illegal means in connection with army corporal Hung Chung-chiu’s (洪仲丘) death in 2013.
The ruling is final and cannot be appealed, and the Judicial Yuan’s Public Functionary Disciplinary Sanction Commission may proceed with Shen’s case unaffected.
Shen was commander of the army’s 542nd Armored Brigade when Hung, a conscript, died from rhabdomyolysis on July 6, 2013, following confinement and physical drills that were reportedly punishment for bringing a camera-equipped cellphone onto a military base.
His death sparked public outrage, leading to a demonstration by 250,000 people in August 2013.
Shen was charged with unlawful imprisonment by a public officer under Article 134 of the Criminal Code and disciplining a subordinate by a method not explicitly authorized by military law under Article 45 of the Criminal Code of the Armed Forces (陸海空軍刑法).
Judges said prosecutors did not provide sufficient evidence to prove that Shen had criminal intent, which is necessary to substantiate the charge of unlawful imprisonment.
The evidence also failed to prove that Shen had prior knowledge that Colonel Ho Chiang-chung (何江忠) and other officers intended to use the disciplinary incident as a pretext to punish Hung in ways that breached military regulations, they said.
Shen signing a disciplinary order and ignoring Hung’s text messages for help was not material to establishing intent, they added.
As court did not have the standing to consider the breach of Article 45, because the law specifically forbids cases involving Article 45 to go to a third trial, the court upheld the Taiwan High Court’s not-guilty ruling on both counts, the judges said.
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