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Transfer of military prisoners completed smoothly

Transfer of military prisoners completed smoothly

Taipei, Aug. 15 (CNA) More than 200 military prisoners had been transferred to civilian prisons as of Thursday noon as the newly revised Code of Court-Martial Procedures came into force that same day, according to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ).
Transfer operations began at the country's only military prison in Tainan under heavy security early in the morning and proceeded without any glitches, the MOJ's Agency of Corrections said. The first group of military inmates was taken from the Tainan Military Prison in a Taipei Prison vehicle at around 6:20 a.m.
under police and armed military police escort.
Seven other groups of inmates were later taken from the facility via escorted prison buses to 10 other civilian prisons around Taiwan. One group of prisoners destined to be incarcerated in Pingtung County seemed to be happy to leave the jail, waving to reporters covering the event and shouting "thank you!" as the prison bus left the complex. The transfer was originally scheduled for completion at around 2 p.m., but was wrapped up by 10:50 a.m. thanks to careful planning and close cooperation among prison staff and police and military police officers, the Agency of Corrections said.
To ensure that all went off without a hitch, all the prisoners were subject to body searches before boarding their buses, the agency said. The military also mobilized three anti-riot vehicles manned by 150 armed military police to supervise and provide escorts, the agency said. According to the agency, 254 servicemen serving sentences at the Tainan Military Prison were eligible to be transferred to civilian prisons in the first phase of changes to the court-martial system. Because 11 of them are either on medical parole or being held in custody at detention centers, only 243 inmates were transferred to civilian prisons in Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Yilan, Tainan, Yunlin, Chiayi and Pingtung, the agency said.
Another 53 military prisoners will be transferred to civilian prisons in the second phase of the program, which begins in five months. Under the revised court-martial code, which passed the Legislative Yuan Aug. 6 and was promulgated by the Presidential Office Aug. 13, all military servicemen will from now on be subject to the civilian justice system during peacetime. In the first stage, 178 cases pending investigation or rulings by military courts were transferred to 24 civilian courts around Taiwan Thursday. Among the military inmates transferred to civilian prisons were three two-star generals, two one-star generals and Navy Capt. Kuo Li-heng, who was put behind bars for his role in brokering kickbacks in the high-profile Lafayette frigate deal in the 1990s.
They were all transferred to Taipei Prison in Kueishan, Taoyuan County. They used to enjoy preferential treatment at the Tainan Military Prison, but Deputy Justice Minister Chen Ming-tang said they will no longer be accorded such privileges.
"All six former senior military officers will be treated in line with the principle of equality," Chen said.
As all of the civilian prisons are overcrowded, most of the military prisoners were sent to prisons in central and southern Taiwan, where the congestion problems are less serious, Chen added.
The push to overhaul the court martial system came after the death of Army Corporal Hung Chung-chiu on July 4 following a serious of irregularities, disregard for military rules and procedures and abuses of power. The incident triggered huge public protests and calls for improved human rights and reforms in the military. (By Yang Sz-ruei, Tsai Pei-chi and Sofia Wu)