The Pentagon says it has transferred eight soldiers to another base in Afghanistan amid allegations that they mistreated a New York City soldier shortly before he committed suicide.
The soldiers face charges ranging from maltreatment to involuntary manslaughter in the death of 19-year-old Army Pvt. Daniel Chen of Chinatown.( Thu Dec 15 22:26:21 PST 2011 $__output )
Chen was found dead Oct. 3 with a gunshot wound below his chin. Army officials never gave details about his death, but it was believed the wound was self-inflicted.
The military's investigation found that Chen had been the target of racially motivated taunts and physical attacks at the hands of his superiors and comrades before he died.( Thu Oct 13 10:02:20 PDT 2011 $__output )
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby says the military is taking a zero-tolerance attitude toward soldiers who mistreat their comrades.
The eight soldiers are part of an infantry regiment based in Fort Wainright, Alaska. The soldiers are still in Afghanistan but have been relieved of their duties and confined to a different base.
The next step is a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence for a court martial.
At a press conference Wednesday, the soldier's mother, Su Zhen Chen, said through an interpreter that it is comforting "to learn that the Army is taking this seriously" and hopes the truth will come out.
A community activist with ties to the family said Wednesday that relatives had been told Chen was dragged from his bed, pelted with rocks and forced to drink liquids while hanging upside down, among other abuse, during his short time in Afghanistan. He was deployed there in August, and had been in the military just seven months.
"Whether suicide or homicide, those responsible for mistreating Danny are responsible for his death," said Elizabeth OuYang, president of the New York chapter of OCA, a national civil rights organization serving Asian Pacific Americans.
Chen's death is one of several recent cases of alleged hazing in the military, according to OCA, a national civil rights organization serving Asian Pacific Americans.