10-year wrongful imprisonment probed in central China city

17:44, May 12, 2010      

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Authorities in central China's Henan Province began Wednesday to probe the wrongful imprisonment of a man who spent more than 10 years in jail for murder.

Zhao Zuohai, 57, was freed Sunday after the man he allegedly murdered turned up alive.

Authorities issued arrest warrants for three police officers suspected of torturing Zhao into confessing to the murder charge, said Song Guoqiang, an official with the People's Procuratorate in Shangqiu City.

He said two of the officers, Guo Shouhai and Zhou Minghan, have been detained while the third one, Li Deling, remains at large.

Song said the procuratorate has questioned everyone else involved in Zhao's conviction at the public security bureau, procuratorate and court in Shangqiu.

The Higher People's Court in Henan Province has promised to penalize the judges responsible for the wrongful conviction.

According to the court's statement, in October 1997, Zhao Zuohai and his neighbor Zhao Zhenshang had a fight in their home county of Zhecheng, after which Zhao Zhenshang went missing.

A year later, in May 1999, a headless and highly decomposed body was found in the village. Zhao Zuohai was arrested as a suspect and convicted in 2002 of murdering Zhao Zhenshang.

He was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve. The sentence was later commuted to a 29-year imprisonment.

A villager from Zhao Zuohai's hometown said during the ten years when Zhao Zuohai was in jail, his wife remarried, two of his four kids were adopted while the other two left to become migrant workers.

Zhao Zhenshang returned to the village on April 30, 2010. The Higher People's Court confirmed Zhao Zhenshang's identity on May 7 and acquitted Zhao Zuohai.

City authorities in Shangqiu apologized to Zhao Zuohai on Tuesday and gave him 10,000 yuan (1,464 U.S. dollars) in compensation.

He is expected to receive further compensation in accordance with the state compensation law.



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