Mistaken identity gets Chinese teenager 200 days in jail

The unnamed teenager, a student in Bole city in Xinjiang province, was sentenced to jail two years ago for a robbery committed by his namesake.

Authorities learnt of their mistake only when the teenager met the namesake's accomplice in jail, who was stunned by the mistake, the China Youth Daily reported.
The student's family won a state compensation of 23,000 yuan ($3,445). But they said they would still appeal to a higher court for the 212-day ordeal that included abuses and threats in custody as well as public humiliation in school.

The incident dates back to March 2008 when the student's dropout classmate Ma Qinglin was arrested for a robbery. He confessed to the crime, telling police that he gave some of his stolen jewellery to the namesake to sell.

The accused was taken in for questioning and he admitted to the wrongdoing. But since he was still an underage student, 15 at that time, and selling goods stolen by others was not an offence, he was released after his father paid a fine.

Ma told police that he was also involved in other crimes but failed to mention that it was a namesake security guard in West Xinjiang and not his classmate.

However, the police assumed that it was the student. In September 2008, the student was arrested. For many days, he tried to explain that he never robbed anything and that police must have got the wrong guy.

But the police just didn't believe him."They thought I was lying. So they repeatedly threatened me, bullied me, choked my neck and beat me. I was bruised all over my body," he said.

Instead, a police officer read out Ma's testimony and asked him to repeat it, which was then recorded as his testimony.The student was sentenced to two years in prison in November 2008 for a crime he never committed.

After the trial he was transferred to another jail, where he met Ma Qinglin, the dropout classmate, who had accidentally implicated him but now held the power to free him.
An internal report about the mistake was submitted, and his parents immediately sought a redress.

He was released after a retrial in April 2009. By then, he had been in custody for 212 days.The real robber was later arrested and sentenced and the police officials responsible for the mistake were given internal notices. Two of them were suspended.
But, for the student, the damage had already been done.

While in custody, he was handed a confession letter and ordered to read it out loud on public stages at three schools as a deterrent message to other students.
"I've been stealing since I was a child," the letter read, describing all the despicable things the student never did.

According to judicial experts, the student still suffers from "traumatic stress disorder".

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