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Blindfolded inmate was beaten

A MAN who died in custody in what police said was a game of blind-man's-bluff gone awry was actually beaten to death by fellow prisoners, prosecutors reported yesterday.

Li Qiaoming, 24, died from a severe brain injury four days after being sent to a hospital from a detention center in the southwestern province of Yunnan, where he had been held for cutting down trees without authorization.

Police initially said Li was injured when he ran into a wall while blindfolded in the detention center in Jinning County.

But an inquiry found that Li was fatally beaten by inmates who used the game as a cover.

Yunnan police yesterday sacked one official and punished three others as a result of the incident.

Li had been frequently bullied by inmates Zhang Houhua, Zhang Tao and Pu Huayong, said Liu Xiaokai, spokesman for the provincial prosecutors office.

At about 5pm on February 8, the trio asked Li to join them in a game of blind-man's bluff and covered his eyes with a cloth, Liu said.

Then the trio began beating him, and Pu punched Li in the head, causing him to strike a wall and pass out.

Liu said the three inmates colluded to fabricate an excuse for Li's death, claiming he struck the wall himself in the game.

An autopsy found that Li suffered fatal brain injuries that resulted from several blows, Liu said.

He said prosecutors had gathered evidence from a site investigation and elicited testimony from other inmates.

Liu said the three inmates would probably face charges of assault resulting in death after the investigation concluded, but he declined to say when that might be.

Three senior officials were removed from their posts for dereliction of duty in connection with the death, said Yang Jianping, spokeswoman for the Yunnan Province Public Security Bureau.

They were Yan Guodong, vice director of the Jinning police bureau who was in charge of prisons, Yu Chengjiang, head of the Jinning prison, and Jiang Ying, vice chief of the prison.

Li Dongming, a police officer in charge of Li's cell block, was sacked.

Authorities initially told Li's family the inmate had died while playing a game, which angered them and caused a fire storm of Internet criticism. Yunnan authorities took the unusual step of allowing a citizen panel to investigate the incident.


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