Taipei: Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou was mobbed by hundreds of angry mourners today as he attended the funeral service for a young conscript who died after allegedly being abused by his officers.
Protestors, including relatives and sympathisers, shouted "We want truth" as Ma, protected by security guards, made his way to the funeral site at the soldier`s home in the central city of Taichung.
The service was held a day after more than 100,000 people took to the streets of the capital Taipei to protest over the death of Corporal Hung Chung-chiu and the "sloppy" military investigation of the case.
Hung died of heatstroke on July 4 -- apparently after being forced to exercise excessively as punishment for taking a smartphone onto his base -- just three days before the end of his compulsory year-long military service.
Ma pledged no such tragedy would recur in the military as he offered his condolences to the family.
"As the president and the leader of the country`s three armed forces, I hereby guarantee that Hung Chung-chiu will not have died in vain and such a tragedy will not happen again," Ma told Hung`s father Hung Chi-tuan.
A total of 18 military officials were indicted last week over Hung`s death, including the former commander of his brigade, after military prosecutors completed their investigation.
They were indicted on charges ranging from abuse leading to death and involuntary manslaughter to imposing illegal punishment on a subordinate and offences against personal liberty.
Four detained suspects were separately released by a military court on bail last week, fuelling public anger.
"The four are likely to further collude with each other. Why they were released on a bail?" Hung`s father asked Ma.
The president said military prosecutors had appealed against the court`s ruling.
The rally yesterday was the second mass protest since the corporal`s death.
About 30,000 people demonstrated outside the defence ministry in the capital on July 20, according to the activist group that organised the protests.
Ma has apologised for the incident and defence minister Kao Hua-chu stepped down to take political responsibility for the soldier`s death. (AFP)
New US penalties will greet Iran`s new leader
Washington: New US penalties against Iran appear a done deal as the country`s new president takes over.
In a letter to President Barack Obama, 76 senators are demanding tougher punishment on Iran`s economy until the Islamic republic scales back its nuclear program. It also urges Obama to consider military options while keeping the door open to diplomacy.
The Senate letter, a copy of which was obtained yesterday by The Associated Press, comes just days after the House overwhelmingly passed new restrictions on Iran`s oil sector and its mining and construction industries.
Senators are expected to take up the same package in September.
"Until we see a significant slowdown of Iran`s nuclear activities, we believe our nation must toughen sanctions and reinforce the credibility of our option to use military force at the same time as we fully explore a diplomatic solution to our dispute with Iran," says the letter, which will be delivered tomorrow.
The Obama administration is concerned Congress` effort could undercut Iran`s relatively moderate President-elect Hasan Rouhani, who was formally endorsed by Iran`s ayatollah yesterday and takes the oath of office today. Rouhani has pledged to follow a "path of moderation" and promised greater openness over Iran`s nuclear program.
Obama wants to give Rouhani a chance to prove his seriousness.
The US believes Iran has been working for years to develop nuclear weapons. Iran insists its program is for peaceful energy and research purposes.
Rouhani`s victory signaled Iran`s clear dissatisfaction, the senators said. But they noted that all final decisions on nuclear matters rest with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and said Iran must not be allowed to use any new nuclear negotiations with world powers to stall for time.
"Iran today continues its large-scale installation of advanced centrifuges," their letter said. "This will soon put it in the position to be able to rapidly produce weapons-grade uranium, bringing Tehran to the brink of a nuclear weapons capability."
"We need to understand quickly whether Tehran is at last ready to negotiate seriously," it added. "Iran needs to understand that the time for diplomacy is nearing its end."
Obama prefers diplomacy. He has given Iran until sometime next spring to prove to the world that its program is peaceful. If Iran fails to do so, the stage may be set for military intervention from the US or Israel, which sees Iranian nuclear weapons capacity as an existential threat and has warned of taking action according to its own timeline.