Inner Mongolia court OKs retrial in 1996 rape, murder

Updated: 2014-11-21 07:37

By Yuan Hui in Hohhot and Zhang Yi in Beijing(China Daily)

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The highest court in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region decided on Thursday to retry a controversial rape and murder case 18 years after the defendant was executed.

Li Shengchen, spokesman for the region's Higher People's Court, said a panel has been set up to retry the case based on files and other written materials.

Hugjiltu, 18, a member of the Mongolian ethnic group, was convicted of raping and choking a woman to death in a restroom at a textile factory in Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, in April 1996.

He was executed 62 days after the woman was killed, despite doubts over the evidence. At the time, the local authorities had launched a crackdown against violent crimes, and such cases were fast-tracked through the courts.

However, in 2005, a man named Zhao Zhihong admitted that he was the woman's murderer after being arrested for a string of murders. He confessed to 10 rape and murder cases. Zhao was given the death penalty, but the crime for which Hugjiltu was convicted was not listed on Zhao's indictment.

Authorities postponed Zhao's execution after he showed details of Hugjiltu's case to police and left a letter to prosecutors in 2006 saying that Hugjiltu was innocent.

Zhao told police details about the 1996 case, including the restroom's location, the victim's age and height, and position of the body. His description was much more detailed than Hugjiltu's confession, raising suspicions about the court's decision.

Hugjiltu's mother, Shang Aiyun, 62, has been trying to prove her son's innocence since hearing of Zhao's confession in 2005. She repeatedly asked the regional court to retry the case, but was told only that "the court is working on it".

On learning that the case is being retried, she burst into tears and said, "It's a decision that has come too late."

The court defended the prolonged decision on the retrial, saying there have been "tremendous difficulties" in rechecking the evidence or finding new evidence. It said it has continued to scrupulously investigate the case over the past nine years.

The court promised to protect attorneys' rights to perform their duties and said Hugjiltu's lawyers can access the case files during the retrial.

The major doubts over the 1996 case surround the lack of comparison of semen stains and a hasty ruling based on blood-type evidence.

According to the court transcript in 1996, Hugjiltu rushed to the restroom to help when he heard the woman cry out, but found her dead and called police. After being questioned for 48 hours, he confessed to raping and killing her.

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 Inner Mongolia court OKs retrial in 1996 rape, murder

Shang Aiyun bursts into tears on Thursday after receiving the court's document ordering a new trial in her son's case.

 Inner Mongolia court OKs retrial in 1996 rape, murder

Hugjiltu (in the photo) was executed on charges of raping and killing a woman in 1996. Wu Hailang / for China Daily

(China Daily 11/21/2014 page5)