A Chinese teenager executed after being convicted of murder and rape 18 years ago was declared innocent by a court on Monday, in a rare re-examination 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.
“Hugjiltu is found not guilty.”
The retrial comes after a pledge by leaders of the ruling Communist Party to strengthen the rule of law “with Chinese characteristics” — a concept experts caution refers to greater central control over the courts rather than judicial independence.
Images circulated on social media were described as showing the court’s deputy president apologising to Hugjiltu’s parents and offering them compensation of 30,000 yuan ($4,850), although this could not be immediately confirmed.
The regional court said Hugjiltu’s confession did not match the autopsy report as well as being inconsistent with “other evidence”, and that DNA evidence presented at the trial did not definitively connect him to the crime.
China’s courts, controlled by the ruling Communist Party, have a near-100 per cent conviction rate in criminal cases and confessions extracted under dubious conditions are commonplace.
In Hugjiltu’s case, authorities interrogated the teenager 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 in November. He was executed 61 days after the woman’s death.
Hugjiltu’s family tried to prove his innocence for nearly a decade, according to reports, and the Higher People’s Court officially began a retrial of the case in November.