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Vendetta alleged in death of Army corporal

2013/07/16 23:15:14

Hung Chung-chiu (center), the Army corporal who died while being wrongfully detained, and his parents.

Taipei, July 16 (CNA) A former fellow conscript claimed Tuesday that Hung Chung-chiu, an Army corporal who died while being wrongfully detained, was the victim of a personal vendetta.

Liu Hsuan-yang's allegation appeared to shed light on the reasons why Hung was thrown into the brig just days before his discharge from military service and treated in a seemingly cruel way. Hung, 24, died of heat exhaustion on July 4, just two days before he was due to be discharged.

As many as 37 officers, including the Army's three-star commander, are facing court martial or other less serious disciplinary measures over Hung's death.

Earlier in the day, Col. Ho Chiang-chung, deputy commander of the Army's 542 Armor Brigade, based in Hsinchu County, was detained by a military court for allegedly ordering that Hung be summarily punished, bypassing or speeding up a normal procedure that would otherwise have taken days to complete.

Liu's allegation suggested that Col. Ho was either misled by Hung's superiors in his company or conspiring with them to punish Hung for being "uncooperative."

Hung, a conscript, disapproved of a master sergeant's mean way of treating fellow soldiers and was seen by the master sergeant, surnamed Chen, and another career non-commissioned officer to hold a plum job because he got to leave the base more often than they, Liu told reporters.

Out of jealousy and personal grudge, the two had wanted to "teach Hung a lesson" and the fact Hung brought a smartphone into the base gave them an opportunity, according to Liu, who was discharged from the same company as Hung's on July 6.

He claimed the two persuaded the brigade's deputy commander to have Hung thrown into the brig in less than half a day. Under normal circumstances, it would take several days to complete the procedure, which involves physical and psychological evaluation of the offender by medical personnel.

Liu said that he overheard Col. Ho telling the deputy commander of Hung's company: "Put him (Hung) in. Or I'll put you in."

Hung reported to the brig on June 28 and shared a hot, narrow and poorly ventilated cell with another soldier. The space was so cramped that he had to bend his legs while lying down.

For six days, as part of his punishment, he was ordered to do pushups, sit-ups, jumping jack and other physical exercise in punishing heat and humidity. By the time he collapsed and was sent to the hospital on the evening of July 3, it was too late for the doctors to save his life.

Initial findings by the Ministry of Defense (MND) released Monday showed that for his offense, Hung should have been given only an administrative discipline.

Even if he had committed an offense that seemed to merit time in the brig, a decision should have been made after two disciplinary meetings were called. In Hung's case, only one meeting was held.

It is not yet known why the commander of his brigade, now facing court martial, allowed him to be thrown into the brig anyway although one legislator claimed that it had to do with the complaints that Hung made at a meeting of soldiers about to be discharged.

In its report, the MND also faulted the poor condition of the brig and the lack of proper training for those responsible for the detainees.

Soldiers should not have had to do any physical exercise or drill under the heat and humidity that Hung experienced while in the brig, according to the MND.

The guard failed to take Hung's physical condition into consideration even though Hung weighed 98.3 kilos despite only measuring 1.72 meters and had a BMI of 33, said the MND.

In a rare show of unity, all the local media deplored the death of Hung, a graduate of National Cheng Kung University who was going on to pursue a master's degree.

Under pressure, Defense Minister Kao Hua-chu tendered his resignation Monday but was asked to stay on by both President Ma Ying-jeou and Premier Jiang Yi-huah. Earlier that day, the president said that he had instructed the MND to get to the bottom of the case and publish its findings.

(By Kuan Rui-ping and Jay Chen)