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Parents plead for the release of son

THE parents of a man jailed seven years ago for withdrawing money from faulty ATMs were in Beijing last week petitioning for his release.

He Peng, from Yunnan Province, was sentenced to life in prison for stealing nearly 430,000 yuan (US$62,911) from automatic telling machines in Yunnan Province in March 2001 after a computer malfunction allowed him to withdraw funds he didn't have. His parents traveled to the capital to request his early release, Southern Metropolis Weekly reported yesterday.

He, then a sophomore at Yunnan Provincial Police College, took 429,700 yuan from several ATM machines in two days from March 2, 2001, using a deposit card issued by the Agricultural Bank of China.

He, who was 22 at the time, took the money home on March 3 and threw away his deposit card after using it 221 times over two days.

He was detained two days later by the public security bureau at Luliang County - his hometown - for malicious overdrawing, but released a week later because what he did was stealing rather than malicious overdrawing.

He was arrested again on April 6 for theft and granted bail on November 13, and detained again on March 11, 2002.

The Intermediate People's Court of Yunnan's Qujing City heard his case on April 9, 2002 and sentenced him to life three month later.

His appeal to the Yunnan Higher People's Court was rejected on October 17, 2002. The life sentence has since been commuted to 14 years and six months due to his good behavior in prison.

In his appeal, he insisted he had the money in his account at the time of the withdrawals.

"At least 1 million yuan was in my account at the time, otherwise I couldn't have withdrawn so much money from seven automatic telling machines," He said.

All the money was returned to the bank later.

He's parents sold their property and gave up their jobs to help him. They went to Beijing during this year's parliamentary session in early March and visited several government agencies to petition for their son's release, including talking to deputies of the National People's Congress.

Yunnan's higher court has no plan to review the case, Southern Metropolis Weekly said.


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