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June 28, 2017

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MND apologizes over 17-year-old murder case

TAIPEI--The Ministry of National Defense (MND) apologized yesterday to the family of a little girl who was raped and murdered at a military barrack 17 years ago, after a court overturned an earlier conviction and acquitted a former serviceman in the high-profile case, in which one man has already been wrongfully executed.

Deputy Defense Minister Kao Kuang-hsi told a legislative hearing that the ministry "has always felt apologetic toward the family of the victim."

His remarks came one day after the Taiwan High Court acquitted Hsu Jung-chou — who was sentenced to 18 years in jail for the offense by the Taipei District Court in December 2011 — citing a lack of direct evidence.

Hsu, who has mild mental retardation, was released to his family and his movements restricted. The case can still be appealed.

"If the acquittal is final, the MND will immediately renew its investigation," Kao said, promising to get to the bottom of the case.

The victim's body was found in a ditch near a toilet at the Air Force Combat Command in Taipei's Daan District Sept. 12, 1996, an event that shocked the nation due to the brutality of the crime and where it took place.

Airman Chiang Kuo-ching was originally found guilty of the crime by a military court after being tortured into confessing and was executed in 1997 at the age of 21.

But doubts over his involvement persisted. A new investigation launched by the Special Investigation Division under the Supreme Prosecutors Office and the Taipei District Prosecutors Office concluded in May 2011 that it was Hsu rather than Chiang who murdered the child.

The prosecution, however, based its case against Hsu on the evidence of a bloody palm print that was found at the crime scene that matched Hsu's.

Chou Chih-jen, head of MND's Department of Military Justice, declined to comment on the ruling of the Taiwan High Court, which said that that it reversed the original ruling because of discrepancies between Hsu's confession and crucial details surrounding the crime, including the autopsy results.

In addition, he pointed out that the prosecution is considering an appeal and said that he will wait until the final verdict before giving his views.

Meanwhile, Hsu's lawyer, Chen Yi hsuan, said that as the case is not yet final, it is still too early to seek criminal compensation for his client.

Chen said that after the acquittal is final, he will study the issue of compensation with Hsu's family.

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