Nine Indonesian crew to face murder trial in Taiwan

TAIPEI - Nine Indonesian fishing boat crewmen suspected of murdering their Taiwanese captain and chief engineer faced an angry attack from relatives when they were brought back to the island Tuesday to stand trial.

Family members of the dead punched the group and stabbed at them with umbrellas when they stepped off a coastguard frigate that had taken them to the northeastern fishing port of Suao.

A family member fell into the water in the melee, but was rescued, televised images showed. The assault was so violent that coastguard members had to retreat temporarily to the ship with the nine.

The coastguard said in a statement that the Indonesians are suspected of murdering Chen Te-sheng, skipper of the Te Hung Hsing No. 368 fishing boat, and chief engineer Ho Chang-lin, and of throwing the bodies overboard.

The crime allegedly followed a dispute with the skipper while the ship was operating in the Pacific.

The owner of the Taiwanese fishing boat reported to authorities on July 18 that for three days the skipper had not responded to his satellite calls.

The report prompted the Taiwanese coastguard to send a frigate to intercept the fishing boat nearly 4,500 nautical miles (8,300 kilometres) from the island's southernmost tip.