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September 24, 2017

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Taiwan thanks United Kingdom for help in sending home AWOL officer

TAIPEI--Taiwan on Sunday expressed gratitude to the United Kingdom for repatriating a Taiwanese military intelligence officer who deserted her post in Taiwan more than 18 months ago and went into hiding in the U.K.

Lt. Emily Yeh, an officer with Taiwan's Military Intelligence Bureau, returned to Taiwan earlier Sunday after she was repatriated by British authorities.

She was guarded by British officials throughout the flight from London to Taiwan, which included a transit stop in Kuala Lumpur. Her arrival at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport on Sunday afternoon brought to an end her over-18-month attempt to hide in the U.K.

Shortly after Yeh's return, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement, thanking the relevant British government agencies for helping to send the AWOL officer back home.

Over the past few weeks, Taiwan had been in close contact with the U.K. on the matter of repatriating Yeh, the ministry said.

Upon Yeh's return to Taiwan, Ministry of National Defense spokesman Maj. Gen. Luo Shou-he also urged her to honestly admit her mistakes.

Yeh, 33, was taken to the Taichung District Prosecutors Office for interrogation and she could be tried later for desertion, an offense that carries a maximum sentence of five years under Taiwan's Criminal Code of the Armed Forces.

According to the English translation of article 39 of the code, "a person who tries to get rid of military service over a long period of time" is liable to "imprisonment for not more than five years."

Yeh's case was among those transferred to civilian judicial authorities on Jan. 13, as part of Taiwan's reform of its military justice system following a national protest at the death of an Army corporal in military detention last year.

Yeh, who was in military service in Taichung, flew to the U.K. in June 2012 without permission from her superiors.

She had been granted vacation time from June 17-24, 2012 to visit Thailand, but she failed to return, according to the Military Intelligence Bureau.

Yeh said she traveled to the U.K. via Thailand. She is believed to have entered the U.K. under the visa-exempt privileges extended to Taiwanese nationals, but stayed illegally after the six-month visa-free period expired.

She took up residency in Newport, Wales until her Dec. 10 arrest for overstaying and her passport was invalidated by Taiwan once it was discovered that she had gone AWOL.

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