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China frees murderer after ‘victim’ reappears

A MAN imprisoned nearly 10 years for murder in China has regained freedom after his alleged victim turned up alive, a case that raises concerns about police using torture to extract confessions.

The Higher People’s Court in the central province of Henan pronounced Zhao Zuohai, 57, innocent, after the man he was accused of killing, Zhao Zhenshang, returned to their village April 30, the China Daily newspaper reported.

An investigation was under way into the conviction, and Zhao Zuohai will receive about $45,000 in compensation for his wrongful imprisonment, the newspaper reported.

The incident raises concerns about police torture, which Zhao Zuohai’s relatives say was used to force him to confess even though he was innocent. Torture is believed to be used widely by police and government officials who rely heavily on coerced confessions to prove criminal cases.

In 1997, Zhao Zhenshang, now 58, disappeared after having an argument with Zhao Zuohai, the report said, citing court documents. The two men are not related.

Zhao Zuohai was arrested in 1999 after a headless body believed to be Zhao Zhenshang was found, the China Daily said. After he went to prison, Zhao Zuohai’s wife remarried and her new husband adopted his children.

Zhao Zuohai’s relatives say he has scars after being tortured by police into confessing, the China Daily reported.

China has taken gradual steps to address particular instances of torture. Last year, Beijing pledged to clamp down on inmate abuse, and nearly 1,800 policemen were suspended, according to a report released on the Ministry of Public Security website.

China has also released guidelines that identify specific acts of torture for which police can be prosecuted in an apparent attempt to reign in such abuses.

The anti-torture measures follow other cases involving people being imprisoned because of forced confessions.

In 2005, government worker She Xianglin was compensated $67,000 after serving 11 years in prison for murdering his wife. He was freed when his wife later returned to their hometown. She Xianglin said he had been tortured into making a false confession.

Meanwhile, in Haiti desperate parents are abandoning their children following the apocalypse earthquake that hit the country in January.

Weeks after a one-year-old was found in a dumpster, his father showed up.

The baby wriggled in his cot, smiled and held up his arms. When the father didn’t touch him, the baby started to cry and kick his legs.

The man left moments after he arrived, never to be seen again, according to a report written by a social worker at the Saint Catherine Hospital in the Cite Soleil slum, where the child was taken.

The catastrophic earthquake that left at least 1.3 million of Haiti’s nine million people homeless was the final push over the edge for families that could barely afford to feed their children before. Now stuck in leaky tents with dwindling aid handouts, Haitian families are abandoning their children in the hope that rescue organizations will offer them a better life, aid workers say.

A four-day-old baby girl was left in a cardboard box outside a hospital. Toddlers are being found alone in hospital waiting rooms. Outside a private clinic, volunteers discovered a three-year-old holding a bag of carefully-folded underwear. A note pinned to his shirt asked those who found him to look after him.

Even before the magnitude-7 quake, poor parents left children at orphanages where they would at least receive one meal a day. Now the number of abandoned children has skyrocketed, said 37-year-old Tamara Palinka, who helped coordinate logistics at the University of Miami-run field hospital on the grounds of the airport.

“I personally talked a lot of mothers out of giving up their children,” said Palinka, who cordoned off a space inside the field hospital’s pediatric tent for abandoned children, including another toddler found crawling on a garbage heap.

Orphanage workers say their facilities are swelling with children who are not orphans.

At Mother Teresa’s orphanage behind a tall wall covered in concertina wire, nuns in white saris hover over the cribs of children whose arms are attached to drips. They don’t take in orphans, only malnourished children who will be returned to their families after they put on weight. They require the mothers to stay on the grounds because otherwise they might not come back.

The United Nation’s Children’s Fund set up a toll-free hotline in February for abandoned or lost children who had been separated from their families during the quake. The call center has registered 960 children so far. “We don’t call them orphans because they could have family,” explained Edward Carwardine, UNICEF’s spokesman in Haiti.

UNICEF gave the hotline number only to agencies and aid workers – not the public – for fear of an avalanche of calls from desperate families trying to unload their children.



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