Police pay family after man dies in cell

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 December, 2006, 12:00am

Officials close book on farmer's death amid torture suspicions

Hebei police have paid 300,000 yuan to the family of a farmer who died in custody last month on the condition that his relatives do not take legal action against officers.

A legal analyst said such payoffs were part of judicial practice on the mainland but added that such matters should not be settled in private.

Cangzhou farmer and driver He Yujiang was taken to the Xiaowangzhuang police station for questioning on November 22 over an unspecified theft and two days later the 47-year-old was found dead at the station. Police would only say that he died suddenly and would not explain his death.

The family suspects He was tortured and his wife had to spend two weeks under sedation in hospital after seeing her husband's body.

The family last week signed an agreement with the Xiaowangzhuang police station and the Cangzhou Public Security Bureau's Yunhe branch not to take the matter further or hold police officers accountable for their relative's death in return for 300,000 yuan.

The money was paid into a family account. The dead man's brother, He Yushu , said the family had to accept the deal. 'The person is dead. We would not win the case if we lodged a lawsuit,' he said.

Mr He said the family had wanted a bigger payout, but did not think they could get any more money. 'If we ask for more, they won't give it to us. It has been such a long time and it is OK that we finally have the money.'

Concerning the lack of explanation for his brother's death, Mr He said: 'We have no way out. We have to continue with our lives.'

He also said the family had refused to allow a postmortem examination of his brother's body, even though local prosecutors advised them to request one. 'We did not want to do it. What if [the authorities] cheated us?'

According to village tradition, the dead man was buried in farmland near his home after the compensation was settled.

China Lawyers' Watch Centre director Zhao Guojun said police should explain how a man could die in custody. 'We must be clear over whether anyone is responsible for his death, and if police were at fault,' Mr Zhao said.

'If anyone is found to have inflicted fatal injuries on other people, it means he has committed a crime and a crime against the public should not be settled in private. If settled privately, there is no chance of social justice.'