US soldiers charged over comrade who 'shot himself'


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The Independent US

Eight US soldiers were yesterday charged in relation to the death of a fellow GI who authorities say apparently shot himself in Afghanistan after being assaulted and taunted with racial insults by his comrades.

Private Danny Chen, a 19-year-old from New York's Chinatown neighbourhood, was found dead in a guard tower in Kandahar province on 3 October with what the Army said was an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Elizabeth OuYang, president of the New York chapter of the Organisation of Chinese Americans, said at a news conference yesterday that Private Chen's fellow soldiers had dragged him across the floor, threw stones at the back of his head, forced him to hold liquid in his mouth while upside down as part of an apparent hazing, and called him "Jackie Chen" in a mocking accent.

The details of his alleged hazing came from Facebook and email messages, discussions with cousins and a few pages of Chen's journal released by the Army, Ms OuYang said.

The Army said that eight soldiers in his company have been charged with crimes ranging from dereliction of duty to manslaughter.

At the news conference, Chen's relatives said they were encouraged by the charges. "We realise that Danny will never return, but it gives us some hope," said Yen Tao Chen, his father, speaking through a translator.

Community activists said the Army still has not fully explained the circumstances of Private Chen's death. They are meeting with Pentagon officials 4 January. "We need to know the whole truth," Nydia Velazquez, the US Congresswoman for New York, said at the news conference. "Racial discrimination and intolerance have no place in today's military."