Hung video malfunction raises suspicions

Staff writer, with CNA

Sun, Jul 21, 2013 - Page 3

Suspicions over a surveillance video that may have offered insight into the recent death of an army conscript mounted yesterday after the military said a key 80-minute portion of the video was blank because the cameras stopped working.

Chief military prosecutor Major General Tsao Chin-sheng (曹金生) said authorities are now looking into why the surveillance cameras stopped functioning during the 80 minutes from 2pm to 3:20pm on July 1.

The video monitored the area of a military detention facility where 24-year-old army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) was forced to do strenuous exercises as part of his punishment, and the missing period was when Hung would have been in view.

Hung collapsed from heatstroke after doing similar drills on July 3 and died a day later, just three days before he was due to be discharged at the end of his year of compulsory military service.

There had been hope that the July 1 video could offer clues into how Hung was treated in the brig and whether he was pushed beyond what his body could take.

Some speculated that the 80-minute section had been erased by military personnel to cover up improper treatment of Hung, but the Investigation Bureau raised hopes on Friday when it said it had restored the video to its original state.

Tsao yesterday said that the bureau did “restore” the video, and the section had not been deleted, but the 16 recording lenses all malfunctioned.

“Preliminary examinations show that all the security footage of the cell still exists and there is no evidence indicating that the control panels of the surveillance cameras [in that room] had been touched,” Tsao said, adding that that if the system’s power had been unplugged, the screen would have been black, rather than simply blank.

However, further investigation is required to ascertain why 16 surveillance cameras in the cell malfunctioned during those 80 minutes, Tsao said.

Hung’s family were skeptical of Tsao’s claim that no manipulation was involved in the missing 80 minutes.

Hung’s mother could not understand why there were no images in the “restored” video and accused the military of deliberately dragging its feet in the investigation.

Meanwhile, Tsao said that Staff Sergeant Chen Yi-hsun (陳毅勳), a non-commissioned officer who was responsible for monitoring the status of those in disciplinary confinement, was detained on Friday night.

Tsao said Chen was detained on suspicion of abusing subordinates under the Criminal Code of the Armed Forces. Those convicted under the statute are subject to a prison term of between three and 10 years, and up to life imprisonment if a subordinate dies.

Three officers have been taken into custody over the soldier’s death so far, including Colonel Ho Chiang-chung (何江忠), deputy commander of Hung’s unit, the 542nd Armor Brigade.

The other two are Major Hsu Shin-cheng (徐信正), a company commander in the army’s 542nd Armor Brigade in Hsinchu County, and Staff Sergeant Fan Tso-hsien (范佐憲).

So far, more than 30 military officers and non-commissioned officers have been disciplined over the case.