China officials sentenced in graft suspect's drowning

BEIJING (AFP) - A Chinese court has convicted six officials in the drowning of a man reportedly stripped and held under water to try to extract a corruption confession, a lawyer for the victim's family said on Tuesday.

The rare case has brought into public view the internal workings of the ruling Communist Party's high-profile anti-corruption drive, although the ruling went unreported by China's state media.

The men, five of whom worked as corruption investigators for the central party's discipline inspection department, were sentenced late last month by a court in Zhejiang province, according to Mr Wu Pengbin, a lawyer for the family of victim Yu Qiyi.

"On September 30, the court handed down individual sentences of four to 14 years for the six men," Mr Wu told AFP.

Yu, the chief engineer of a state-owned company in the city of Wenzhou, had been detained for more than a month over suspected wrongdoings in a land deal.

He died in April while in the investigators' custody, reportedly after he had been stripped naked and held down in a bathtub as the officials sought to obtain a confession to corruption.

Family members also said they had found multiple bruises on his body.

The investigators had been accused of intentional injury and were tried last month in Quzhou in Zhejiang.

The case marked a rare instance of Chinese party officials being put on trial in public.

But another family lawyer later said the relatives' representatives were denied the right to ask questions and were blocked from attending part of the proceedings.

Yu's family and their attorneys have also called for more senior party officials to be held responsible after one of the defendants reportedly testified that a higher-ranking official had taken the decision to hold Yu under water.