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January 13, 2012

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A chilling stare and recanted testimony

AFTER 12 years behind bars, the prisoner gave a long, intimidating stare at the man taking a seat at the witness chair to give testimony that could keep him in prison for life.

Soon a sneering smile came to the prisoner's face as witness and suspect eyed each other silently. The critical witness, who came forward at an August hearing to testify that his friend was a murderer, lowered his head and murmured to the judge, "I cannot remember the details anymore."

Hisses and a woman's crying came from the audience.

For the past 12 years, the prisoner, Lu Shundong, had stayed behind bars for human trafficking in a case from 1999, when a boy went missing after being taken from his family. The woman weeping in the courtroom was Tang Weihua, the boy's mother.

Lu never disclosed the boy's whereabouts. He got a15-year sentence for human trafficking, not a life sentence for kidnap or murder because the evidence was lacking. He is eligible for release this April 27.

But in August, Jiang Xiaobing, Lu's only friend before he was imprisoned, told police that Lu had once admitted to him that he kidnapped and killed the four-year-old boy in 1999.

Yesterday, Jiang recanted that testimony, saying he couldn't remember. This came after Lu stared at him and interrupted his statement three times, despite warnings from the judge.

Prosecutors said Lu should be sentenced for kidnap and leading to the boy's death. The boy can be pronounced dead after being missing for over 12 years, according to Chinese law.

A verdict will be announced later, the court said yesterday.


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