Chinese teen executed in 1996 cleared of murder, rape

The court's deputy president (left) with Hugjiltu's parents, to whom he gave 30,000 yuan (S$6,400) as a "personal donation".
The court's deputy president (left) with Hugjiltu's parents, to whom he gave 30,000 yuan (S$6,400) as a "personal donation".PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
The court's deputy president (left) with Hugjiltu's parents, to whom he gave 30,000 yuan (S$6,400) as a "personal donation".
The court's deputy president (left) with Hugjiltu's parents, to whom he gave 30,000 yuan (S$6,400) as a "personal donation".PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BEIJING - A Chinese teenager executed after being convicted of murder and rape 18 years ago has been declared innocent by a court, in a rare overturning of a wrongful conviction.

The 18-year-old, named Hugjiltu and also known as Qoysiletu, was found guilty and put to death in Inner Mongolia in 1996, but doubt was cast on the verdict when another man confessed to the crime in 2005.

"The Inner Mongolia Higher People's Court finds Hugjiltu's original guilty verdict... is not consistent with the facts and there is insufficient evidence," the court in Hohhot said in a statement yesterday.

"Hugjiltu is found not guilty," it added.

The retrial comes after a pledge by the ruling Communist Party to strengthen the rule of law "with Chinese characteristics", and after several other high-profile wrongful convictions sparked public outrage.

The court's deputy president gave Hugjiltu's parents compensation of 30,000 yuan (S$6,400), reported Xinhua news agency, adding that the money was a personal donation and not an official payment.

Images on social media showed the deputy president apologising to Hugjiltu's now elderly parents.

"This is an amazing thing the court did, to admit that they were wrong," said Mr Wang Gongyi, deputy director of the research institute of the Ministry of Justice. "In the future, this case will be singled out as what not to do, and will influence the entire legal system."

Police in Hohhot, where the crime took place, said they have opened an investigation into the officers responsible for the original case, according to the Legal Evening News.

The regional court said Hugjiltu's confession did not match the autopsy report and DNA evidence did not definitively connect him to the crime.

Hugjiltu was interrogated by the authorities for 48 hours, after which he confessed to having raped and choked the woman in the toilet of a textile factory, the state-run China Daily newspaper reported last month. He was executed 61 days after her death.

His family tried for nearly a decade to prove his innocence, according to reports, and the Higher People's Court officially began a retrial last month.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE