Boy’s murder sparks death penalty debate

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By SAPA

Taipei -

The murder of a 10-year-old boy whose throat was slit in a playground in Taiwan over the weekend has reignited a debate over the death penalty after the suspect reportedly said he would get away with a life sentence.

Public anger mounted after the 29-year-old suspect was quoted in the media as saying he would get a life sentence at most “even if he were to kill two or three persons” and that he wanted to go to jail to avoid having to worry about living expenses.

Protesters, who were also outraged over reports the suspect said he “targeted kids because they were less likely to fight back”, gathered outside the justice ministry on Thursday to demand the execution of the island's death row inmates.

There are currently 61 death row inmates in Taiwan, caught in limbo partly by a lengthy legal process and partly by a virtual moratorium on executions. The longest-serving of them has been waiting to be executed for 25 years.

“We demand the government abide by the law and enforce capital punishment to maintain law and order in our society. We oppose abolishing the death penalty,” said Angela Wang, head of a child welfare promotion association.

As the government has not carried out any execution in nearly two years, some criminals are getting the impression that they will avoid the death sentence even if they commit murders, Wang said.

Taiwan reserves the death penalty for serious crimes including aggravated murder, kidnapping and robbery, but the political elite is divided about whether to maintain it.

A lingering debate on abolishing the death penalty was renewed recently, particularly after judicial and military authorities came under fire over the execution of a soldier wrongly convicted in a child murder case.

Chiang Kuo-ching, a 21-year-old serviceman executed by shooting in 1997, had insisted he was innocent and that he was coerced by a group of air force intelligence officers into confessing. - Sapa-AFP

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