An aboriginal activist faced imprisonment as a prisoner of conscience. Fifteen people were sentenced to death and 21 were executed. There was growing evidence that three prisoners under sentence of death were innocent and had confessed under torture. The first presidential election by universal suffrage took place in March, and was won by the incumbent, President Lee Teng-hui. Tension across the Taiwan Strait grew in the weeks before the election, as armed forces of the People's Republic of China carried out military exercises. These were apparently aimed in part at dissuading voters and politicians in Taiwan from advocating independence and the government from seeking further international recognition. The new cabinet which was formed in June stated that it would work to eradicate corruption. Minister of Justice Liao Cheng-hao said that judicial reform would be a priority. In July, the government announced that it would set up commissions to consider legal reforms on aboriginal issues and immigration. It also announced that a law on judges would be drafted, forbidding judges from joining political parties. No draft of the law had been made public by the end of the year. Iciang Parod, a prisoner of conscience and member of the Amei, one of the aboriginal ethnic groups, was released in May after serving seven months of a one-year prison sentence for allegedly organizing an illegal demonstration (see Amnesty International Report 1996). Yukan Nafu, a member of the Taiya ethnic group, was facing imprisonment on similar charges, but his sentence was still under appeal by the end of the year. If imprisoned, he would be a prisoner of conscience. In January, the Control Yuan, an independent body investigating complaints against officials, published a report highlighting the military authorities' failure to prevent the killing of army conscript Yeh Tzu-hsien in September 1995 (see Amnesty International Report 1996). It also criticized the authorities for classifying Yeh Tzu-hsien's death as suicide, despite evidence that he had been killed when hit by a military vehicle and that his body was dumped at a construction site in the capital, Taipei. Despite the Control Yuan's findings, no military officers had been brought to justice by the end of the year. In February, nine prison guards and one prisoner reportedly received prison sentences of between eight and 12 years in connection with the death of Chu Jui-jen, an inmate of the Chiayi Detention Centre, who died in September 1995 (see Amnesty International Report 1996). Tu Cheng-ja, a senior supervisor at the detention centre, was reportedly sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment for ordering other officers and an inmate to beat Chu Ju-jen. Fifteen people were sentenced to death, and 21 were executed. Among those sentenced to death in previous years, Su Chien-ho, Liu Ping-lang and Chuang Lin-hsiung remained imprisoned under sentence of death for a 1991 double murder, despite strong indications that they were innocent. In September, Wang Wen-chung, brother of another co-defendant in the case who was convicted and executed several years ago, stated that he had been tortured by police into incriminating the three men, as well as himself. Wang Wen-chung had been convicted in 1991 of being an accomplice in the case, and served a 32-month sentence. He said police officers used a lighter to burn his chin and threatened to arrest his mother, until he agreed to sign a confession which incriminated himself as well as the three above-named men. The police also refused him access to a lawyer. He said that, after signing his confession, he had been taken to another room in the same police station, where he saw Su Chien-ho tied to a chair while a police officer hit the soles of his feet with a wooden pole. Wang also said he saw Liu Ping-lang being held down in another chair as police used a cattle prod to apply electric shocks to his genitals, while Chuang Lin-hsiung was being beaten on the head. Despite this testimony, and findings by the Control Yuan, which confirmed the allegations of police ill-treatment made by Su Chien-ho and his co-defendants, calls for a retrial by lawyers, members of the Legislative Yuan (parliament) and many non-governmental organizations remained unanswered by the end of the year. In June, an Amnesty International representative visited Taiwan and met relatives of Su Chien-ho and his co-defendants. In May, Amnesty International had publicly called on the Taiwanese authorities to commute their death sentences, as a first step towards a full review of their case.

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