Man who spent 11 years on China's death row compensated

BEIJING (AFP) - A Chinese man condemned to death three times for murder and who spent 11 years on death row before being cleared was awarded 1.27 million yuan (S$281,957) compensation, reports said Tuesday (Dec 29).

Zeng Aiyun, once a graduate student at Xiangtan University in the central province of Hunan, was convicted in 2004 of murdering a fellow student and sentenced to die.

The verdict was set aside three times on appeal and new trials ordered, but on the first two retrials in 2005 and 2010 Zeng was again condemned to death.

Finally the Xiangtan Intermediate People's Court exonerated him for lack of evidence at his fourth trial in July.

It awarded him 1.27 million yuan in compensation on Monday (Dec 28), the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The court found another student to be the sole killer, it added. Chen Huazhang - previously sentenced to life as Zeng's accomplice - poisoned the victim out of jealousy, Xinhua said, and laid a false trail to implicate Zeng.

Zeng said he was not satisfied with the compensation and would go back to court once more to seek more, the Beijing Times reported Tuesday (Dec 29).

The case is the latest to highlight the risks of miscarriages of justice in China, where forced confessions are widespread and virtually all criminal defendants are found guilty.

Wrongful executions are not unknown in the country.

In a high-profile case that sparked nationwide public anger, a court in the northern region of Inner Mongolia last year cleared a man named Hugjiltu, who was convicted, sentenced and executed for rape and murder in 1996 at the age of 18.

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

China's courts are politically controlled and the Communist Party has pledged to ensure the "rule of law with Chinese characteristics" and said it will lessen the influence of local officials over courts.

But the country's conviction rate remains close to 100 per cent, with only 778 acquittals last year and nearly 1.2 million convictions, according to official data.