TAIPEI - A massive inmate transfer — reportedly the largest in Taiwan's history — took place across the island yesterday after the Code of Court Martial Procedure (軍事審判法) took effect.
The new regulations, which were prompted by the controversial death of Corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘), stipulate that military personnel are to be prosecuted, tried and incarcerated by nonmilitary institutions during peacetime.
In addition to the transfer of inmates, 178 court-martial cases, involving 219 defendants, were also transferred for trial by district and high courts around the island, according to the Central News Agency.
According to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), a total of 240 inmates and detainees, including five high-ranking officers with eight stars among them, held at a military prison in Tainan were transferred across the island to 11 prisons administered by the Agency of Corrections.
According to local reports, 259 military police, not including nonmilitary police, armed with handguns and rifles were mobilized to ensure a smooth operation.
Several inmates were seen cheering, waving and yelling “thanks” as they were carried away in armored buses toward their destination.
The transfer was scheduled to be completed by 2 pm. in eight batches, but it ended three hours earlier than planned, without any unexpected incidents or disruptions.
Inmates were searched thoroughly for contraband before they were allowed to board their busses.
Patrol cars of the Tainan police spearheaded the procession, while nearly 100 officers wearing bullet-proof vests were mobilized to control nearby traffic. The Tainan police cars were followed by officers of the destination counties and cities, as well as military police and MOJ personnel.
Reporters in the Southern Taiwan city described the atmosphere as being “somber” but not “tense.”
According to local reports, military police were initially concerned that the inmates' family members might show up; however, excluding several passing drivers who stopped to watch the procession, the transfer went smoothly.
Scale Takes Hung Family by Surprise
Hung's sister, who played a key part in advocating for the court-martial system revision, said that neither she nor her family members had anticipated changes on such a large scale.
She explained that her family had called for an amendment to ensure that tragedies like her brother's death would never happen again.
The family had only wanted to make sure that soldiers are better protected, Hung's father added.
Hung's sister went on to say that although she had not anticipated such massive changes, she hopes that the changes will bring about a better future.