Sentences reduced for four soldiers in abuse case

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Sentences reduced for four soldiers in abuse case

The military appeals court on Thursday convicted four soldiers of murder for beating a young conscript to death last year, a case shedding light on systemic abuses prevalent among the enlisted.

The High Court for Armed Forces at the Ministry of National Defense convicted four soldiers over the death of a 22-year-old conscript, identified as Private First Class Yoon.

After Yoon died on April 6, 2014, Army investigators uncovered that he had endured brutal physical abuse and sexual humiliation during his less than four months in the military. The victim, who enlisted in December 2013, was assigned to serve in the 28th Infantry Division as a medical officer.

Two sergeants and two corporals in his unit were charged and indicted in his death, and convicted of homicide at the initial court-martial in October. Although military prosecutors charged them with murder, the lower court-martial did not accept the charge.

The ruling, however, was overturned on Thursday at the appeals court, with the High Court for Armed Forces convicting all four of murder.

“Although the murder was not premeditated, their actions amount to dolus eventualis murder [common murder],” the court said, noting that the soldiers were aware of the foreseeable consequences of their actions.

A 26-year-old sergeant, only identified as Lee, was ordered to serve 35 years in prison for murder as well as for sexual harassment. The court removed 10 years from the original 45-year sentence. The remaining three were each ordered to serve 12 years in prison for murder. The high court also reduced their punishments.

In the initial trial, a 23-year-old sergeant was ordered to serve 30 years in prison, while the two corporals were given 25 years.

“The prosecution asked for life sentences, though the soldiers had no prior criminal records,” the high court said. “They are in their 20s and we believe rehabilitation is a possibility.”

The court added that it decided to reduce the others’ sentences because Sergeant Lee ordered them to participate. The high court also handed down a 10-year prison term to a 24-year-old staff sergeant overseeing the medical unit.

“The officer was responsible for handling complaints, but he neglected to act and concealed the violence by prohibiting the victim’s parents from visiting,” the court said.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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