Former soccer chief says he was tortured

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2012, 12:00am

The top mainland soccer official implicated in an unfolding corruption scandal has accused interrogators of extracting his confession under torture in a dramatic retreat from the bribery charges laid against him.

Xie Yalong, the former full-time vice-chairman of the Chinese Football Association, went on trial for bribery at the Dandong Intermediate People's Court, in Liaoning province, yesterday.

Xie's lawyer, Jin Xiaoguang, told reporters that his client was subjected to various forms of torture - including electric shocks, slaps to the face and sleep deprivation - since he was taken into custody in September 2010.

An emotional Jin told journalists outside the court his client had described how he suffered bleeding from his ears after being punched. The lawyer said he has asked the court for a review of the charges against his client because most of them were based on coercive confessions.

'Xie said he had confessed simply because he wanted to stay alive until the day he could feel safe in front of a [China Central Television] camera to tell the truth,' the lawyer said.

'He wanted his family to know the truth and wanted his son to know what kind of father he is.'

Xie is among the last group of soccer officials, referees and retired players to stand trial in the biggest sports corruption crackdown on the mainland, which has brought down about 50 sports officials, soccer club owners and referees. The former deputy head of the Chinese Football Association, Yang Yimin, was sentenced to 101/2 years in jail and fined 200,000 yuan (HK$246,000) for accepting 1.25 million yuan in bribes and match-fixing at a court in Tieling in February.

Today, Xie's successor, Nan Yong, will go on trial at Tieling Intermediate People's Court, while four retired national soccer players are to stand trial at Shenyang Intermediate People's Court.

Xie is charged with taking 1.72 million yuan in bribes - including one of 120,000 yuan from a Nike marketing executive for helping the sportswear manufacturer secure sponsorship deals with the Chinese Football Association. He is also accused of receiving 210,000 yuan from Impulse, a mainland gym equipment manufacturer, while he was a department head in charge of local sports activities at the General Administration of Sport of China in the late 1990s.

However, Xie's younger sister, Xie Yamei, who attended yesterday's hearing, told mainland reporters that more than one million yuan of the bribes that her brother is alleged to have taken could not be substantiated. She said her brother had told her he had suffered from an irregular heartbeat after police struck him with an electric prod. He said his captors also poked this weapon in his mouth and armpits.

'Interrogators also held my sister-in-law until my brother confessed, even though she suffers from kidney problems,' Xie's sister said, adding that yesterday was the first time she had seen her brother since his arrest. The 11-hour trial adjourned around 9pm and the court will hand down a sentence at a later date.