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UK returns deserting officer Yeh to Taiwan

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Emily Yeh (葉玫), a former Taiwanese military intelligence officer who deserted her post more than 18 months ago and went into hiding in the UK, was repatriated back to Taiwan yesterday.

Yeh was under guard by British officials throughout the journey 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 time as a fugitive.

Yeh, 34, was taken to the Taichung District Prosecutors Office for interrogation. She can be tried later for being "absent without leave" (AWOL), an offense that carries a maximum sentence of five years under Taiwan's Criminal Code of the Armed Forces.

Yeh was a Military Intelligence Bureau lieutenant. She was granted a vacation to visit Thailand in June 2012 but failed to return and instead flew to the UK without permission from her superiors.

According to Yeh, she could not get along with colleagues at work. She said she had reported the issue to her superior, but was unable to get transferred to a different post. She then applied for a travel itinerary to Thailand.

She then flew to the UK on June 18, 2013, as British authorities did not require a visa. She sought political asylum in Britain but was not successful. In July, Yeh's passport was invalidated by Taiwan once it was discovered that she had gone AWOL, and her fugitive status was also reported to British authorities.

Yeh is believed to have entered the UK under the visa-exempt privileges extended to Taiwanese nationals, but stayed illegally after the six-month visa-free period expired.

Yeh took up residency in Newport, Wales until her arrest by British authorities on Dec. 10 last year. She was later placed in a detention facility in Bedford, east England, pending deportation.

The UK has had a long history of providing political asylum to those being persecuted. However, the British government indicates that it will force a repatriation process for those who are unable to prove that they will be persecuted after being repatriated. Sources say Yeh's political asylum application was based on rather weak arguments, and since she had no documents to let her legally stay in Britain, her repatriation was inevitable.

Although Taiwan and the UK have no formal diplomatic ties, British authorities have extensive experience in handling repatriated people. Yeh's repatriation process was largely led by British authorities, which exerted extreme caution and insisted not to reveal any information to the media before Yeh's arrival in Taiwan.

Yeh Admits Mistakes

Yeh's lawyer Guo De-tian (郭德田) was at the airport yesterday to make a public statement on behalf of Yeh. Guo said that Yeh's incident was a “tragedy,” since despite Yeh's claim that she was “not suited” for a military life, there was not a mechanism in the military to allow an officer like Yeh to successfully resign, as her resignation requests were rejected repeatedly by the military.

Yeh has taken the initiative to face investigation and is willing to bear her legal responsibilities, Guo said, adding that Yeh has admitted her fault and felt sorry for the trouble she has caused to the nation, but hopes that she will be given an opportunity to redeem herself.

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Emily Yeh (葉玫) is handcuffed by an officer at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, yesterday. Yeh was accompanied by British officers throughout her repatriation process, and could be tried for being "absent without leave," an offense that carries a maximum sentence of five years. (CNA)



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