SHANGHAI, China – China freed a man who spent 11 years in prison for murder following the reappearance of his purported victim, reports said Wednesday, in a case that provoked unusual discussion in state media about police using torture to extract confessions.
Former security guard She Xianglin claimed he was deprived of sleep during 10 days of interrogation until he signed documents pleading guilty to murder, the Xinhua News Agency and newspapers said.
The man was released on April 1 after his wife, Zhang Zaiyu, returned to their hometown to visit the couple’s daughter, the reports said.
Human rights groups allege numerous cases each year of political and religious dissidents, as well as criminals, being tortured to death. Police tell relatives such individuals died of natural causes or committed suicide.
“Although strictly forbidden by law, forced confession has been common in many places in China,” Xinhua said, citing an unnamed law professor.
Other reports cited a legal expert, Li Guifang, as saying the case also underscored the failure to provide legal advice to suspects like She.
“The police should bear the brunt of the responsibility, because they falsely identified the body, the major evidence in this case, and probably extorted a confession through torture,” said Li, of the official All-China Lawyers Association.
She’s conviction followed Zhang’s sudden disappearance in 1994 and the subsequent discovery of a badly decomposed female corpse in a local reservoir, the reports said. A local court in the central province of Hubei sentenced She to death despite the lack of DNA evidence or other proof that the body was that of his wife.
An appeals court ruled the case was flawed and reduced She’s sentence to 15 years, the reports said.
Reports said Zhang was unhappy with her marriage and with the couple’s poverty. She later married a farmer in the nearby province of Shandong. She claimed she hadn’t known of She’s imprisonment, reports said.
Following She’s release, court, police and government officials visited him and his family to apologize, Xinhua said in a separate report Wednesday. The local court that convicted him planned to hold a brief trial later this month to formally declare him innocent, Xinhua said.
She was quoted as saying he had no desire to reunite with Zhang, saying: “She broke my heart and ruined my life.”