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Zhejiang plans to probe men's wrongful conviction

By Yan Yiqi and Cui Jia (China Daily)

08:11, April 11, 2013

Zhang Gaoping (left) and Zhang Hui, his nephew, have returned to their home in Shexian county, Anhui province, after being acquitted of wrongful convictions that saw them serve 10 years in prison. Their families bought more than 20,000 yuan ($3,200) worth of firecrackers and fireworks to celebrate their return. Zhang Xinyan / for China Daily

Uncle and nephew seek to resume lives after sentence overturned

Two innocent men who recently had their wrongful conviction in Zhejiang province overturned after 10 years in jail are still uncertain about when to apply for state indemnity, although they were informed by the court that it is their right to make the claim more than two weeks ago, their lawyer said on Tuesday.

"Their priority for now is to settle down in their hometown, get some treatment for their physical health and adjust themselves into society again. They are too tired to be bothered with other things," said Zhu Mingyong, lawyer for Zhang Gaoping, 47, and his nephew Zhang Hui, 38.

According to the State Indemnity Law, the pair has the right to apply for state indemnity to cover their losses for the wrongful conviction within two years' time, so they are not in a hurry, Zhu said.

The factors that led to the wrongful conviction remain unclear, and a team has been set up to probe the investigation and enforcement processing of the case.

Zhejiang's Judicial and Law Enforcement Committee announced on Monday that it had established a special working team to look into the investigation, prosecution and law enforcement processing of the case, and anyone found responsible for the wrongful conviction will be punished according to law.

The pair were acquitted by the Zhejiang Provincial High People's Court on March 26. The court said it is possible that police used illegal methods to accumulate evidence when investigating the case 10 years ago.

The court reversed its 2004 ruling that included a death sentence with a two-year reprieve for Zhang Hui and a 15-year prison term for his uncle, Zhang Gaoping, for raping and murdering a woman in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, as there was new evidence showing the possibility of another suspect. Evidence presented during the previous trial was not enough to support the conviction.

Zhu Qiaoxiang, spokeswoman for the committee, said on Tuesday that the investigation is underway. "We will stick to facts and process the work as quickly as possible, and we will keep the public informed about any of our latest findings," she said.

Both men claimed they were forced into confess after a long interrogation.

In an interview with China Central Television, Zhang Gaoping said the interrogation lasted for seven consecutive days with no sleep and little food, and added that he was forced to stay in a squatting posture for a long period of time.

His nephew said a detainee in the detention house named Yuan Lianfang forced him to sign a confession statement. "I refused to sign it, and he punched me in the face," he told CCTV. Yuan was later found to have been involved in another case in Henan province that also turned out to be a wrongful conviction.

Tang Xuebing, spokesman of Zhejiang People's High Court, said at a news conference on March 27 that police instructed inmates at the detention center to force the pair to confess through violence. He also admitted this was the reason for their wrongful conviction.

Zhang Gaoping had appealed their imprisonment in Shihezi, the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, but it was not until last year that their appeal was accepted and a new investigation started.

Zhang Biao, a former prosecutor of Shihezi People's Procuratorate, helped the men with their appeal before he retired. He said anyone who caused the wrong verdict should be punished.

"The case did tremendous harm to not only Zhang Gaoping and Zhang Hui, but also to the public. As judicial workers, some of us have failed the public's trust by not protecting innocent people," he said.

Zhang Biao also expressed hope that the efficiency of related departments could be improved.

"If they had responded quickly to their appeal, they would not have wasted 10 years in prison. The acquittal came too late," he said.

Zhang Gaoping's wife had a miscarriage after he was sentenced and filed for a divorce. His mother lost her eyesight, and died brokenhearted in 2009. Zhang Hui's fiancee left him, and his father spent everything the family had to save him.

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