Taipei, July 31 (CNA) Eighteen senior officers and non-commissioned officers, including former 542 Armored Brigade Commander Maj. Gen. Shen Wei-chih, were indicted Wednesday over the death of an Army conscript earlier this month.
Maj. Gen. Tsao Chin-sheng, chief prosecutor at the Prosecutors Office of the Military Supreme Court, said the defendants were charged with offenses against individual freedom and collective abuse of Corporal Hung Chung-chiu, who died July 4 of severe heatstroke and multiple organ failure.
Four of the defendants, including Col. Ho Chiang-chung, deputy commander of the 542 Armored Brigade, have been detained and three others, including Shen, were released on bail.
Among the 18 defendants, Chen Yi-hsun, a non-commissioned officer responsible for monitoring those held in a brig at the 269 Army Brigade, faces the most serious charge of abusing a subordinate to death.
According to Article 44 of the Criminal Code of the Armed Forces, the charge carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment or at least seven years.
All 17 of the other defendants were charged with less serious offenses, such as collectively impinging upon individual freedom or punishing personnel beyond existing regulations.
Military prosecutors said a special investigative task force found that none of Chen Yi-hsun's superiors had ever instructed him to mistreat or abuse Hung.
Hung, a 24-year-old graduate of National Cheng Kung University, collapsed from heatstroke July 3 in a military confinement facility after doing physically demanding drills in sweltering heat.
He died a day later, just two days before he was to be discharged at the end of his year-long compulsory military service.
Hung's death sparked a public furor because of blatant administrative flaws in the military's handling of the serviceman from the time he was charged with misconduct in late June for bringing a camera-equipped cellphone onto his military base.
According to military regulations, the offense merited no more than an administrative reprimand, but he was sent to the brig -- and ultimately to his death -- instead.
President Ma Ying-jeou has apologized for the tragedy and has accepted Defense Minister Kao Hua-chu's resignation over the incident.
Administrative punitive measures have also been taken with regard to more than 20 officers, including the removal of Shen from his post as commander of the 542 Armored Brigade.
Military prosecutors said in the indictment that Shen had failed to detect Hung's poor physical and mental condition and procedural infractions before heedlessly approving his disciplinary confinement.
Five other officers from the 542 Armored Brigade -- former Deputy Commander Col. Ho Chiang-chung, Maj. Hsu Hsin-cheng, a company commander, Capt. Liu Yen-chun, a deputy company commander, Master Sgt. Chen Yi-jen and Staff Sgt. Fan Tso-hsien -- were also indicted in connection with Hung's death.
They were charged with punishing a subordinate beyond regulations and collectively infringing upon Hung's personal freedom.
Prosecutors recommended that they be given harsh punishment for their offenses.
Besides Chen Yi-hsun, 11 other officers from the 269 Army Brigade, including 10 working at its disciplinary detention facility where Hung was held, were also indicted on charges of abusing their power to offend Hung's personal freedom.
(By Rogge Chen and Sofia Wu)ENDITEM/J