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Chinese villager who was wrongfully convicted of murder gets £573K state compensation

A Chinese villager has been granted a £573,000 payout by the government after he was wrongfully convicted of killing two boys in 1993 and given a suspended death sentence.

Zhang Yuhuan, 52, who had spent nearly 27 years in prison and been on death row since 2001, was finally reunited with his family, including his 83-year-old mother, after proving his innocence in August.

He is to receive 4.96million yuan (£573,000), the largest sum ever awarded in China for wrongful imprisonment, a provincial court in southern China's Jiangxi Province ruled today.  

Zhang Yuhuan (pictured left), 52, who had spent nearly 27 years in prison and been on death row since 2001, is to receive 4.96million yuan (£573,000), the largest sum ever awarded in China for wrongful imprisonment, the Jiangxi High People's Court (pictured right) ruled today

But Mr Zhang said that he was 'dissatisfied' with the court's decision after initially applying for 22million yuan (£2.5million) of state compensation in September.

'[The money] is still too little,' he said in a video published online today. 'Because it was about the 27 years of [my] youth. It's gone and I'll never get it back.' 

While speaking to reporters, Mr Zhang said he planned to use part of the money to pay off some debt and help his two sons to buy houses. 

'I promised [my sons] to buy them houses each worth of one million yuan (£115,000),' he told Pear Video. 'Now it has to be a house under one million yuan.'

He also wanted to build his own home and keep the rest of the fund as pension.

Mr Zhang, who had spent 9,778 days in prison — the longest-ever unlawfully served term in China, said police had tortured and threatened him to force him to confess to the crime. 

Footage shows Zhang Yuhuan, 52, embracing his mother and his ex-wife after being declared a free man in China. He had been jailed for nearly 27 years before being acquitted of murder

Mr Zhang's ex-wife, Song Xiaonv, and their younger son are seen waiting for the man to return (left) after he was declared a free man on August 4. A picture (right) circulating on social media shows Mr Zhang and Ms Song together before he was unfairly arrested. They divorced in 2001

In the space of nearly three decades, Mr Zhang and his family never gave up hope and repeatedly appealed against the court's ruling.

His ex-wife, Song Xiaonv, supported Mr Zhang all along, but the couple decided to divorce in 2001 because they were unsure whether or not the man would ever leave prison.

Mr Zhang finally proved his innocence on August 4 when the Jiangxi Provincial High People's Court withdrew its suspended death sentence for the man from 2001.

The court made the U-turn after questioning the authenticity of Mr Zhang's confessions, according to a statement. It also claimed that no direct evidence could prove that the man had killed the children.  

He was finally able to hold his elderly mother and former partner in his arms tightly upon his return to his home in the Zhang Family Village of the Jinxian County in southern China's Jiangxi Province. 

Touching footage shows the emotional man breaking down in tears during the long-awaited family reunion. 

Overcome by emotion, his ex-wife collapsed on the scene and had to be taken to hospital for treatment, according to video outlet Pear. 

Another clip shows Mr Zhang crying and embracing his long-separated younger son, who was only a toddler when he was unfairly arrested. His elder son was four at the time.  

Another video clip shows Mr Zhang crying and embracing his long-separated younger son (right), who was only a toddler when he was forced to leave his family behind and imprisoned

The controversial case dates back to a fateful day of October 1993, when the bodies of two boys, aged six and four, were found in a pond in the Zhang Family village.

As the boys' neighbour, Mr Zhang was identified as the main suspect and arrested by police two days later.

In January 1995, the Intermediate People's Court of Nanchang gave Mr Zhang a suspended death sentence with a two-year reprieve after finding him guilty of intentional homicide.

Death sentence with reprieve is a type of death sentence under the Chinese Criminal Law. The convicted individual is given a two-year reprieve from the execution.

At the end of the two-year term, the sentence will be reduced to life imprisonment if the individual does not commit further crimes within the period.

Overcome by emotion, Mr Zhang's ex-wife collapsed during the reunion and was hospitalised

Mr Zhang had admitted to the crime to the police, but he insisted that he had made forced confessions due to threats, blackmailing and torture during interrogations.

Two months later, the provincial high court demanded the intermediate court retry the case due to 'unclear facts and insufficient evidence'.

But a retrial was not held until November 2001 for unknown reasons, and the intermediate court stood by its original ruling.

Mr Zhang appealed against the decision, but the court rejected his petition, reported state-run China Daily without giving more details. 

While serving his jail sentence, Mr Zhang insisted on his innocence. His family sent numerous documents to judicial departments to help him get another hearing.

Mr Zhang officially sent a petition to the Jiangxi Provincial High People's Court in August 2017, demanding the judge review the verdict.

In March last year, the high court decided to reopen the case, and a trial was held on July 9 this year.

On August 4, the court retracted the suspended death sentence on Mr Zhang and declared him a free man. He returned to his home village on the same day.

A handout shows Mr Zhang in court during a retrial on July 9 in the provincial high court

The court retracted Mr Zhang's suspended death sentence and declared him a free man

Tian Ganlin, the judge responsible for the case at the high court, was quoted saying: 'After we reviewed the materials, we have found there is no direct evidence that can prove Zhang's conviction.

'So we accepted the prosecutors' suggestion and have declared Zhang innocent.'

The high court said relevant officials from the court had apologised to Mr Zhang for the wrongful conviction and informed him of his rights to apply for compensation from the state.

His lawyer, Wang Fei, said that they planned to hold those who had committed judicial miscarriages in the case legally responsible.

Wang told Shangyou News after the retrial: 'I am not just defending Zhang Yuhuan, but the numerous Zhang Yuhuans in the entire society.

'If you think about it, faced with cruel, forced interrogations, anybody could become the next Zhang Yuhuan.'

The lawyer continued: 'I suggest the court provide the information of the inspectors and those who participated in the forced confession to supervisory authorities to be dealt with.' 

It remains unclear who, or if anyone, is responsible for the boys' deaths 27 years ago. 

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