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August 7, 2009

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Guards face court for inmate's death

TWO prison guards stood trial in southwestern China yesterday morning for dereliction of duty and prisoner abuse over the death of an inmate in a case that raised nationwide concern over the rights of detainees and convicted prisoners.

The indictment said Li Dongming, 48, a senior guard at Jinning County Detention Center in Yunnan Province, failed to carry out his duty to prevent jail violence in Li Qiaoming's cell, which led to his death.

Li Dongming's colleague Su Shaolu, 35, was accused of abusing inmates frequently from last year until this February.

Both defendants are former police officers.

The Songming County People's Court in the provincial capital Kunming City did not reach a verdict yesterday.

Li Qiaoming, 24, was detained on January 28 for allegedly cutting down trees illegally and was transferred to the detention center two days later.

He died of severe brain injuries on February 12 in a Kunming hospital.

Police initially said Li Qiaoming was accidentally injured when he ran into a wall blindfolded during a game with inmates. The explanation angered his family.

A probe by judicial authorities later determined that inmates had beaten Li Qiaoming to death.

Li Qiaoming had been frequently bullied by three inmates, according to prosecutors. On February 8, the trio asked Li Qiaoming to join them in a game of blind-man's bluff and covered his eyes with a cloth. Then the men began beating him, causing him to strike a wall and pass out, authorities said.

The three inmates all face charges of assault resulting in death, prosecutors said.

Li Qiaoming's family sued the three inmates for a total of 120,000 yuan (US$17,570) in a civil trial at Songming County People's Court, which has yet to reach a verdict.

Jinning police also paid Li Qiaoming's family 350,000 yuan as compensation and returned a tractor they seized from the victim.

Five police officers were disciplined over his death. The detention house's chief and deputy were fired. The director of Jinning police received a "major demerit" while a deputy in charge of the county's prison affairs was dismissed.


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