9,778 days in prison for a crime he did not commit: China frees a prisoner after 27 years

9,778 days in prison for a crime he did not commit: China frees a prisoner after 27 years
A man in Jiangxi (Reuters)

Zhang, 52, who was in carpentry before entering prison, returned to his home in Jiangxi’s capital on Tuesday after being behind bars for 9,778 days

The Chinese authorities on Tuesday released Zhang Yuhuan, a man who has been imprisoned for nearly 27 years for a crime that – the Asian country’s judicial system concluded – did not commit, making the ex-con a victim of the longest “wrong judgement” recorded in the Asian country.

The High People’s Court of the southeastern province of Jiangxi decided to release Zhang because his 1993 ruling for the alleged murder of two children was based on “unclear facts and insufficient evidence,” Sixth Tone digital publication reported today.

Zhang, 52, who was engaged in carpentry before entering prison, returned home to the Jiangxi capital Nanchang on Tuesday after being behind bars for 9,778 days.

“I was a young man then and now I’m an old man. I want to thank the authorities for restoring my innocence.”

“I was a young man then and now I’m an old man,” Zhang told his wife before the sentence, according to local newspaper The Paper. However, I would like to thank the authorities for restoring my innocence and done justice.”

The Police arrested Zhang in October 1993 for the alleged murder of two children and, two years later, the Nanchang Intermediate People’s Court sentenced him to death on hold for two years. The sentenced person appealed, an appeal that did not prosper until last Tuesday.

According to Zhang’s defense, the family will try to obtain compensation of 7 million yuan (1 million dollars or 849,153 euros), although he considered it a “very difficult” objective given “the court’s unwillingness to initiate accountability proceedings and hold the officials involved accountable.”

“Even if I get paid, I can’t buy 27 years of youth,” said Zhang, whose wife divorced him years ago and formed a new family.

Of their two sons, one visited him twice in prison throughout the 27 years, while the other saw him in person for the first time this Tuesday.

The Chinese judiciary, which does not operate independently of the executive or legislative branches, has a conviction rate of the accused of around 99%, according to the 2013 data from the China Legal Yearbook.

In addition, according to international human rights organizations, during periods of detention awaiting trial, torture is common to forcibly extract a confession that will then be presented to the courts.