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Defense minister hopes for more time to probe soldier's death

2013/07/20 14:59:31

Taipei, July 20 (CNA) Defense Minister Kao Hua-chu paid a second visit to the family of dead army conscript Hung Chung-chiu on Saturday and expressed hope for more time to investigate the suspicious death of the soldier.

Kao, who met with Hung's family, including his parents and sister, pledged that the Ministry of National Defense will cooperate with the family and the public to probe the case, but expressed hope for more time, saying judicial investigations require the gathering of evidence.

Kao was responding to remarks made by Hung's sister Hung Tzu-yung, who said military prosecutors were too slow in investigating the case and who called for the intervention of a third party in the investigation.

Hung Chung-chiu was believed to have died on July 4 as the result of punishing exercises he was forced to do while he was put in the brig for violating regulations by bringing a mobile phone with a camera to the army base. It was revealed later that he should have only been subjected to administrative punishment.

Hung Tzu-yung said her family has made requests to the prosecutors regarding evidence preservation and access to administrative records, but have yet to receive a response.

She said her family also hopes the case can come to an end soon, but has lost confidence in the defense ministry and the military.

In response, Kao, who visited the family in their home in central Taiwan's Taichung city, promised that the judicial process will not be delayed and the authorities will not hide mistakes made by the military.

Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Defense Andrew Yang accepted a petition letter earlier Saturday from protesters outside the ministry and again apologized for the death of Hung.

Thousands of angry protesters took to the streets in Taipei that day to demand the military reveal the truth about the death of Hung and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Yang promised that his ministry will give the public an explanation on the case and expressed hope that the public will give his ministry an opportunity to repent, transform and uncover the truth.

Corporal Hung Chung-chiu died July 4 from heatstroke after being put in disciplinary confinement. He was sent to the brig June 28 after he was found to be carrying the camera phone. He was due to remain in the brig for a week but on July 3, he collapsed after being forced to drill in high temperatures. He died later in a military hospital.

Hung's death has sparked a public outcry and the military has been criticized as being slow in handling the issue.

Since Hung's death, the defense ministry has taken a series of steps, including an administrative investigation that has resulted in punishment being handed down to more than 30 officers and non-commissioned officers.

A judicial investigation is still underway in which one senior officer and three non-commissioned officers have been taken into custody.

(By Chen Shu-fen, Angela Tsai, Lee Shu-hua, Hsieh Chia-chen and Christie Chen)