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Investigation into death in custody

PROSECUTORS at provincial and city-level are investigating another death-in-custody case, this time in Guangdong Province.

Liu Yushan, 35, died on March 31 in a prison in Fo-shan City in the southern province. The prison's governor said on Wednesday that he died suddenly, possibly due to heart disease. His family says it saw evidence that he had been beaten to death, the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolitan Daily reported yesterday.

Liu's family saw his body at a funeral home on April 1 and said his legs were swollen and bruised and his right knee seemed to have been broken. Family members wanted to feel the injuries but policemen stopped them.

Liu's family was told by prison staff on March 31 that Liu had died suddenly in Gaoming Prison Hospital, and produced a 2005 certificate saying Liu was found to be suffering from heart disease. The hospital said this might have caused his death. But Liu's relatives said they were unaware that he suffered from heart disease.

Liu, a native of Gao-ming District in Foshan City, was sentenced to death in June 1993 for stealing motorbikes worth 210,000 yuan (US$30,702). His sentence was commuted to 17 years in jail and he would have been due for release seven months from now, according to his brother Liu Yuyu.

Relatives visited Liu in prison several times and found Liu in good health. The last time they saw Liu, in November, he was looking well.

Liu was sent to solitary confinement and was under investigation from March 10 to 17 for possessing a mobile phone. His brother had a tape recording in which a prison warder said Liu had admitted getting a mobile phone for another prisoner on February 20. When he heard the prison was to be searched, he threw the phone away.

Liu's family think this is connected to his death.

The family also wants to know why they were only told of the death 20 hours after Liu had been pronounced dead by the prison hospital, and why they have yet to receive a death certificate, which means they cannot apply for an autopsy.

The head of Gao-ming Prison, Li Jianping, has refused to make any comments before the prosecutors' report.

Police across the country have been ordered to launch a three-month campaign to combat the abuse of prisoners in Chinese jails, the Ministry of Public Security said on March 30, one day before Liu's death, following a series of accusations of torture and an uproar over suspicious inmate deaths.

The campaign aims to eliminate the misuse of authority and boost awareness of the law and of human rights.


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