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Military, civilian prosecutors to cooperate on dead soldier's case

2013/07/24 18:13:53

Taipei, July 24 (CNA) Military prosecutors and civilian prosecutors will now work together on an investigation into the suspicious death of an Army corporal on July 4, in a joint effort to find the truth in the case as soon as possible, officials said Wednesday.

At a joint news conference, the Ministry of National Defense and the Ministry of Justice issued a three-point statement on the decision.

They said that in their effort to get to the bottom of the matter, military prosecutors and civilian prosecutors will probe the death of 24-year-old Army Corporal Hung Chung-chiu, in keeping with their respective jurisdictions, and will share their findings.

The two ministries said they will also set up a communication mechanism specifically for the case, with Maj. Gen. Tsao Chin-sheng, chief military prosecutor general; and Kuo Wen-tung, head prosecutor of the Taiwan High Prosecutors Office, serving as the main contacts.

Defense Minister Kao Hua-chu said at the news conference that the defense ministry has found major flaws in the administrative process, military management and emergency rescue in the Hung case.

He pledged that his ministry and the justice ministry will make every effort to uncover the truth.

Military prosecutors and civilian prosecutors will exchange evidence and inform each other of the progress of their investigations, in keeping with the law, a military source said.

Deputy Justice Minister Chen Ming-tang said that Taoyuan prosecutors are responsible for investigating the alleged destruction of evidence, document forgery and manslaughter. Military prosecutors will deal with other matters related to Hung's death, he added.

Hung is believed to have died as a result of punishment drills he was forced to do while in the brig after he was found to have brought a camera cell phone onto the base of his unit, the 542 Armor Brigade, in the northern county of Hsinchu.

Hung's death sparked a public outcry because of reportedly blatant administrative flaws in the military's handling of the matter from the time the soldier was charged with misconduct.

Most notably, he should not have been put into confinement for carrying a camera-equipped phone onto his military base, according to the defense ministry's administrative report on the case.

Since the start of the military investigation, four officers, including Col. Ho Chiang-chung, deputy commander of the 542 Armor Brigade, have been taken into military custody.

But amid lingering suspicions of a military cover-up, Hung's family and its lawyers have asked for civilian prosecutors to intervene.

The cooperative investigation was announced Wednesday shortly after Kao, Tsao, Justice Minister Tseng Yung-fu, Prosecutor General Huang Shih-ming and others met to discuss cooperation on the case.

Meanwhile, Shen Wei-chih, commander of the 542 Armor Brigade, was questioned by military prosecutors Wednesday morning. Shen reportedly had received a text message from Hung asking for help before the corporal was sent to the brig June 28.

Also on Wednesday, Staff and Warrant Officer Chen Yi-ren was released on bail.

The Taoyuan District Prosecutors Office has begun investigating the matter of an alleged blank section of a surveillance video that may have offered clues into Hung's death.

The office is looking into allegations that Col. Chen Yi-ming gave an order to destroy parts of the July 1 video. The destruction of such evidence is a violation of the country's Criminal Code but is not covered under military law.

The camera in question was monitoring the area of the military detention facility where Hung was allegedly forced to do strenuous exercises as part of his punishment. The alleged blank 80 minutes on July 1 covered a period of time when Hung was said to be in the brig.

(By Tsai Pei-chi, Rogge Chen, Sunrise Huang and Elaine Hou)
ENDITEM/ pc