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Supreme Court upholds acquittal in Air Force rape-murder

TAIPEI -- The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a lower court not-guilty verdict on a former serviceman charged in a murder and rape case, in which one man has already been wrongfully executed.

Hsu Jung-chou, whose conviction was overturned by the Taiwan High Court in April 2013, was initially sentenced to 18 years in jail by the Taipei District Court for the Sept. 12, 1996 rape and murder of a 5-year-old girl at the Air Force Combat Command in Taipei.

The High Court reached its decision on the grounds of lack of direct evidence, which was agreed by the Supreme Court during a review of the appeal filed by prosecutors.

The Supreme Court said prosecutors failed to present further affirmative evidence in Hsu's case during the appeal to support a guilty verdict.

Moreover, the Supreme Court pointed out that prosecutors' arguments about the High Court decision being unlawful — a requirement for an appeal to the Supreme Court — because of changes of judges during the High Court proceedings, were unfounded.

Therefore, the prosecutors' appeal was denied and Hsu's acquittal upheld, the Supreme Court said.

The Supreme Court decision is final, and leaves the 17-year-old case unsolved, even though an airman was found guilty of the crime by a military court and executed in 1997 at the age of 21.

The case was reopened by the Special Investigation Division (SID) after the Control Yuan, which is the branch of government responsible for monitoring the actions of public agencies, censured the military in 2010 for torturing Chiang to obtain a confession.

The new investigation launched by the SID and the Taipei District Prosecutors Office concluded in May 2011 that it was Hsu rather than Chiang who murdered the girl.

Chiang was acquitted of the rape and murder charges in a posthumous retrial in 2011, and a military court awarded NT$103 million (US$3.45 million) in compensation to Chiang's mother that same year.

The SID declined to comment on the case before formally receiving the Supreme Court decision.

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