A teenager who was accused of and then quickly executed for raping and murdering a woman in a public toilet in Inner Mongolia in 1996 finally had his innocence restored by the Inner Mongolia Higher People’s Court earlier this morning.
On April 9th, 1996, a murdered woman was found inside a public toilet in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia by a young man named Hugjiltu. Based on a confession that he made to the police during a 48-hour interrogation, he was put on trial for the crime. Despite the lack of evidence and his later insistence of his innocence, he was found guilty and executed two months later. He was 18 years old at the time.
While delivering his retrial verdict to Hugjiltu’s parents inside their own home, the vice president of the higher court expressed his deepest apologies and presented the couple with 30,000 yuan in compensation and pledged further compensation, according to China Daily.
The lawyer representing Hugjiltu’s family announced that once Hugjiltu is formally announced innocent, she will initiate the processes of asking for further State compensation that the family is entitled to and for investigating who, of the police, attorneys, and judges, are to blame for this miscarriage of justice.
It seems like there will be no shortage of blame to go around in this case. Back in 2005, a serial rapist and murderer named Zhao Zhihong was arrested in Inner Mongolia and confessed to ten murders, including the one Hugjiltu had been executed for a decade prior. Yet, he was only tried for nine of the murders. Even with nationwide media coverage, local officials dragged their feet to save their own jobs. A report translated by Danwei in 2009 quotes an unnamed high-placed official as saying:
The factual part of this case became clear long ago, so there should no longer be any doubt. However, if the case is conducted according to legal procedures, many of the people responsible must be punished and subjected to party discipline. And everyone who handled the case, from the police to the procuratorate to the courts, has changed positions in the meantime, and some have even been promoted or transferred elsewhere. So you can imagine the difficulty.
Finally, last month the court ordered a retrial thanks to evidence brought forward (18 years too late) by Yan Feng, a friend and coworker of Hugjiltu, and also the case’s only eyewitness.
In his statement, Yan said that he and Hugjiltu were drinking at a bar on that night and Hugjiltu returned from buying gum saying that he had heard something happening at the public toilet. The two discovered the half-naked body of a woman and quickly called police.
Hugjiltu and Yan were taken in for interrogation. The officers asked Yan about his friend’s character. They wanted to know if Hugjitu been watching porn before they went out drinking. China Daily continues:
Yan told the police that his friend was a good man but the police tricked him into talking more about Hugjiltu, telling him his friend “had confessed everything” and that Yan could be charged with helping Hugjiltu cover up a crime.
He finally told police that Hugjiltu told dirty jokes sometimes. Yan said this was a secret he has been concealing over the years and that the pain never goes away in his mind, Sina News reported.
“But isn’t it normal for a young man to tell such jokes?”, Yan asked. He believes Hugjiltu would not blame him if he was still alive.