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Probe into student's death in custody

PROSECUTORS in western China are now investigating the death of a 19-year-old high school student after his family said he was beaten to death by police during an eight-day interrogation.

Xu Gengrong, a senior student at Danfeng County of Shangluo City in Shaanxi Province,, was taken for questioning by local police on February 28 as the main suspect in the murder of Peng Lina, a junior female student at Xu's school. Peng had been found murdered on February 10, police told the local Chinese Business View.

Xu's family and fellow students lost contact with him after that until March 8 when police said he had died, the Xi'an-based newspaper reported today.

Danfeng County police said Xu had confessed to the murder of Peng during questioning on March 1 and he was immediately detained. On the morning of March 8, he suddenly became short of breath and showed a weak pulse when he was being questioned, He was soon sent to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Xu's family was not convinced by the explanation. Higher-level prosecutors were called in and an autopsy was organized on March 9 at which three of Xu's family attended. The official results will be released in 10 days.

Witnesses told the newspaper that there were bruises across his body and blood in his nose. Medical examiners told them this was are an indication he had been severely beaten before he died.

Nearly everyone, including 100 students, from Peng's hometown had been questioned by police during the investigation of the death of Peng, the girl student who was found dead on the morning of February 10 near a local river bank, the report said.

A student, Wu Ming, said he had been beaten up by police during his 50-hour interrogation. He was not allowed to sleep during the ordeal and was released on March 3 without an explanation.

Another student Chen Lu said he had better treatment. He said the police were kind to him and he was not beaten. But he said the police seemed to have focused their investigation on Xu as most of the questions directed to him were about Xu.

When discovering Xu was being held by the police, his family went to the police but was refused to meet him. Just days later they were told Xu died.

The familiy said the police refused to show them any evidence of Xu's involvement and accused that the police beat the youth to make him confess.

Xu lived alone in a rented flat in Danfeng. His landlord said he was polite though not very good at studies. He had many visitors to his flat including the girl Peng.

Xu loved sports and planned to go to a sports college, the report cited his coach as saying. The coach said Xu was stronger than most students.

Xu's family has sent his body back to their home in Siping Town. But they said they will not bury it until the autopsy results are released.

Danfeng police director Yan Yaofeng told the newspaper that the police had enough proof of Xu's involvement before detaining him. Their case was not just based on Xu's confession. The police said Xu and Peng had been lovers and Peng's murder could have been motivated by revenge or rape.

But he added that if the prosecutors' were convinced that any policeman had beaten the boy, the local police would not try to protect anyone.


Xu's family has agreed a compensation package with Danfeng County. They received the first 120,000 yuan (US$17,547.58) on March 12.




 

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