Taiwan's military prosecutors yesterday indicted 18 officers over the death of a corporal, amid growing public outrage that has already led to the resignation of the defence minister.
But human rights activists and the family of army corporal Hung Chung-chiu, who died on July 4 in a military brig just three days before he was due be discharged from a year-long compulsory military service, said the move brought them no closer to the truth or justice.
Chief military prosecutor Tsao Chin-sheng said six senior officers, including former 542 Armoured Brigade Commander Major General Shen Wei-chih, and his deputy Ho Chiang-chung, were charged with using their positions to order illegal punishment against Hung and deprive him of his freedom.
"Defendant Chen Yi-hsun was also charged with using his power to illegally abuse the victim, [directly] resulting in his death," Tsao said.
Chen, a sergeant, was found to have forced Hung to exercise excessively while in the brig where he was punished for bringing a banned camera-equipped mobile phone into the military compound, according to the indictment issued by military prosecutors. It was found that Hung was also denied water and rest.
Eleven other officers were either charged with neglecting their duty of care for Hung or forging documents to carry out illegal orders handed down by the six senior officers, according to the indictment.
Prosecutors said Chen could face life imprisonment if convicted of abusing Hung, resulting in his death. The six senior officers could be jailed for up to seven years for issuing the illegal order.
The indictment said Fan Tso-hsien, a sergeant, discovered that Hung had brought the phone into the compound and sought the help of deputy brigade commander Ho to pressure the captain of Hung's army company to initiate the illegal order.
It said the order for Hung to be placed in the brig for carrying the banned phone violated army regulations as the offence merely warranted administrative discipline, not detention.
Hung's family said yesterday they did not think "holding just several low-ranking officers responsible" over the death would bring justice and protect human rights in the military.