CHINA: HIGH COURT FREES MAN AFTER SIX YEARS ON DEATH ROW
August 22, 2014: a Chinese court declared innocent a man sentenced to death six years ago for a double killing, in a case which highlighted flaws in the country's legal system.
Nian Bin, a former food-stall owner, was convicted of poisoning two children and condemned to die in 2008, and had been held in custody ever since. His case went through multiple appeals, with lawyers arguing that the evidence against him was insufficient and police had tortured him into confessing, until the high court of Fujian province quashed his conviction and freed him.
Acquittals in China's Communist-controlled court system are extremely rare - 99.93% of defendants were found guilty in 2013, according to official statistics. China has occasionally exonerated wrongfully convicts after others came forward to confess their crimes, or in some cases because the supposed murder victim was later found alive.
The use of force to extract confessions remains widespread in the country, leading to a number of miscarriages of justice. Nian, now 38, told a previous court hearing that police had hung him from a hook and beaten him until he confessed, reports said. He was first detained by police in 2006, after two children died and four other people in a family fell ill near his home, apparently from consuming rat poison.
"None of the evidence presented in the case can be properly verified," the Fujian court said in a microblog post announcing Nian's innocence. His lawyer Si Weijiang wrote in an online post: "We hope that the reversal of the verdict in this case can allow other unjust verdicts to be overturned.â (Sources: AFP, 22/08/2014)