Taiwan's ministry of defence wins wrongful execution suit

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Former Defence Minister Chen Chao-min, former Air Force counterintelligence officer Ho Tsu-yao and four other defendants were sentenced to pay a total of over NT$59.55 million (S$2.5 million) to the Ministry of National Defence (MND) over allegations of being responsible for the wrongful execution of an airman, according to the Taipei District Court yesterday.

The former airman, Chiang Kuo-ching, was executed in 1997 on rape and murder charges in a case involving a 5-year-old female victim at the Air Force Combat Command in Taipei in 1996.

Over 10 years after the execution, a reopening of the case carried out by the Control Yuan in 2011 discovered that the airman was wrongfully executed. The Control Yuan deemed that Chen, who was then an Air Force commander, and six others were responsible for Chiang's coerced confession for the death of the girl.

According to Control Yuan members, Chiang was tortured continuously for 37 hours, eventually leading to his confession and execution.

A record of NT$103.18 million in national compensation was awarded to Chiang's family by the military in 2011 in accordance with the Criminal Compensation Act.

The MND later decided to file a civil suit against Chen and five other suspects involved in the case, demanding that they compensate the military for the payout already awarded to the family. The ministry at the same time asked the court to seize their assets to prevent them from shirking their alleged responsibility to surrender the NT$103.18 million.

After over two years of lawsuit proceedings, the Taipei District Court yesterday issued its ruling, demanding that the six suspects pay fines to the MND. The ruling is subject to appeal.

According to the verdict, although Chiang's execution was in 1997, the reopening of the case occurred in 2011; therefore, the court deems that there is no violation of the principle of non-retroactivity regarding the MND's civil lawsuit against Chen and the others.

The court said that Chen intentionally arranging for counterintelligence officers to get Chiang's confession is a violation of the law.

After the Taipei District Court handed out the verdict yesterday evening, Ho Tsu-yao, who was sentenced to pay a fine of over NT$8.59 million to the MND, was quoted by Apple Daily as asking "is this fair to me?" Ho said he was serving in the military and he had to follow his orders.

Ho said he did whatever his superior asked him to do, adding that he did not do anything to offend Chiang. He added that when Chiang was alive, Chiang even told a judge once during a court session that Ho had been really nice to him.

Ho reportedly said that he has to bear the responsibility despite the fact that he was just following orders, stressing that he will file an appeal against the ruling to fight for his innocence.

Apart from Chiang's case, the Supreme Court earlier this May handed out a not-guilty verdict to Hsu Jung-chou - a man widely believed to be the true killer of the five-year-old girl - despite the fact that Hsu confessed to the crime on several occasions.

The Supreme Court said it could not accept Hsu's confessions because he is mentally challenged and has difficulty expressing himself clearly.