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Chinese man compensated for false murder conviction

May 17, 2010

A Chinese man jailed for murder and then freed when his supposed victim reappeared has been awarded government compensation, Chinese state media say.

Zhao Zuohai, 57, was imprisoned for murdering his neighbour a decade ago, but released recently after the man returned to his village.

Mr Zhao said police had beaten him and forced him to confess.

He has now been given $96,000 (£67,000) compensation. Two policemen accused of beating him have been arrested.

Sentenced to death

Zhao Zuohai's problems began in 1999, when he had a fight with his neighbour.

The neighbour then disappeared, and Mr Zhao was charged when a headless, decomposed body was found several months later.

He was initially sentenced to death but this was commuted to a 29-year term. While he was in jail, his wife remarried and several of his children were adopted.

The miscarriage of justice came to light when the neighbour returned to his village in Henan province to seek welfare support.

Mr Zhao told China Daily that police had beaten him with sticks and set off fireworks over his head to make him admit the crime.

"They taught me how to plead guilty. They told me to repeat what they said, and I had to, or I would be beaten," the newspaper quoted him as saying.

The compensation was awarded by the Intermediate People's Court in Henan's Shangqiu City.

Police and prosecutors were investigating his case and had promised to find those responsible for the false conviction, Xinhua news agency said.

As well as the two policemen detained, a third was being sought, the agency said.

Correspondents say convictions in the Chinese court system are strongly dependent on confessions, motivating police to use force to get one.

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