Huugjilt, an ethnic Mongolian living in China, was 18 years old when authorities accused him of raping and killing a woman in a public restroom. He was eventually convicted and sentenced to death and executed a couple of months later. That was in 1996.
Now, a court in Inner Mongolia, the Chinese region in which Huugjilt was executed, has ruled that he was wrongly convicted, a judge even offering "sincere apologies" to the family. Rather than raping and killing the woman, Huugjilt had apparently heard her screams and approached to try to help. Authorities found out their mistake when another man confessed to the killing in 2005 in the course of confessing other crimes.
The Chinese government says it is taking the possibility of more wrongful convictions seriously. The Independent reports:
Human rights activists hailed the decision [to overturn Huugjilt' conviction] as Communist Party-run courts in China have a high conviction rate, which leads to allegations that apparent confessions are forced from the accused by methods of torture.
Detectives have admitted that they felt pressed to secure a conviction in a crack down on crime and Huugjilt was declared guilty in April 1996 before he was executed two months later. A retrial was scheduled last month with the confession from Zhihong presented to the judge.
China's high court has since taken charge of reviewing all death sentences and has pledged to carry out executions for only the most heinous crimes. The country also has more convictions than the world combined, however the data is kept top secret.
Another man, still on death row, was acquitted in August. He says he was tortured into confessing he had killed two children with poison before being spending six years in prison.