Man jailed since 1994 acquitted of murder

Mr Chen Man (second from left) went to jail after receiving a suspended death sentence in 1994, but was acquitted this year.
Mr Chen Man (second from left) went to jail after receiving a suspended death sentence in 1994, but was acquitted this year.PHOTO: WEIBO OF CCTV NEWS

BEIJING • A Chinese man freed after spending more than 20 years in prison for murder will get more than US$400,000 (S$551,000) in compensation, a court said yesterday, according to official media.

Mr Chen Man, now in his early 50s, was given a suspended death sentence - which in China is normally commuted to life imprisonment - in November 1994 for murder in the southern island province of Hainan.

After a series of appeals going as far as the country's highest court, he was finally acquitted and released in February due to a "lack of evidence". It was one of a series of cases to highlight miscarriages of justice in China, where the courts are tightly controlled by the ruling Communist Party, forced confessions are widespread and more than 99 per cent of criminal defendants are found guilty.

Hainan's provincial court, which upheld Mr Chen's suspended death sentence in 1999, agreed to pay him around 2.75 million yuan (S$580,000) for loss of personal freedom and mental suffering, said state broadcaster China Central Television.

Mr Chen initially demanded more than 9.66 million yuan and for the court to make formal apologies in national and local media outlets. "I have to accept it," he told the Legal Evening News yesterday.

"We have regrets. But we acknowledge it according to the State Compensation Law," he said, according to the report.

China has occasionally exonerated wrongfully executed or jailed convicts after others came forward to confess their crimes, or in some cases because the supposed murder victim was later found alive.

Of those exonerated in recent years, Mr Chen spent the longest in prison, state media said.

For others, the new verdicts came far too late. A man named Hugjiltu was cleared of rape and murder in 2014, nearly two decades after he was convicted and executed at the age of 18 in Inner Mongolia.

The declaration of his innocence came nine years after another man confessed to the crime.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2016, with the headline 'Man jailed since 1994 acquitted of murder'. Print Edition | Subscribe