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February 8, 2010

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Farmer wants a retrial over fake tiger images

A SHAANXI Province farmer convicted of fraud for faking photographs of an endangered South China Tiger has insisted he is innocent and applied to state legislators for a retrial.

Zhou Zhenglong, who was given a suspended jail term for accepting a government cash award over the fake photos and illegally possessing bullets, insisted he is innocent and claimed there is new evidence of the tiger's existence, Beijing-based Legal Evening News reported yesterday.

The evidence consisted mainly of photos of tiger footprints. A team of five lawyers submitted Zhou's application for a retrial to Ankang Intermediate People's Court.

According to a Beijing scholar, also a Zhou backer, the 54-year-old farmer has searched the mountains several times since September and taken many photos of tiger footprints.

Earlier media reports also said Zhou had seen a tiger but that his camera battery had died and he missed a chance to prove his innocence.

A photo by Zhou in 2007 of an alleged South China Tiger, which is believed to be extinct in the wild in China, was confirmed in June 2008 by Shaanxi police to be a fake. It was simply a photograph copy of a tiger picture from a calendar.

In November, the Ankang court sentenced him to a suspended two-and-a-half year jail term in its final ruling.

Zhou had told Xinhua news agency that he was happy to be able to return home after being put under custody for two months at a local detention center.

He also said he wanted to thank the court for being lenient.

However, the ex-hunter said in the retrial application that he was forced to plead guilty otherwise he would have been sent to prison for illegally possessing bullets.

According to the application, Zhou wants the original judgment revoked.

According to earlier media reports, Zhou faked pictures of a South China Tiger in 2007. The Shaanxi provincial forestry department announced Zhou's "discovery" to the public in October 2007, and gave him a 20,000 yuan reward.


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