China

China court gives reprieve to death row abuse victim

Picture of Li Yan, provided by Amnesty International. Image copyright Private
Image caption Li Yan killed her husband in 2010, a year after they got married

A Chinese court has given a two-year reprieve to a woman sentenced to death for murdering her abusive husband.

Li Yan, 44, was sentenced in 2011, but in a surprise move, a court in Sichuan province ordered a retrial last June.

Evidence showed her husband had sexually and physically abused her, burning her with cigarettes and cutting off part of a finger.

Correspondents say it could signal a shift in China's approach to dealing with domestic violence.

Li Yan's case sparked widespread debate online. Last month, new guidelines were announced on domestic violence including on sentencing of victims who commit crimes against their abusers.

The reprieve was given under the new guidelines and experts say the death sentence could be commuted to a prison term.

"The original judgment's determination of the facts and conviction was correct and the trial's procedures were lawful, but the assessment of the punishment was inappropriate," the Ziyang City Intermediate People's Court in Sichuan province ruled, according to Reuters.

Body dismembered

During the initial trial, a court heard that Tan Yong, Li's husband, had begun beating and kicking Li shortly after they got married in 2009.

She complained to local police and officials but no action was taken.

In November 2010, Li killed her husband during a fight, hitting him with the butt of an air rifle that, Li's lawyer says, Mr Tan had threatened to shoot her with, and dismembered his body.

She was caught after a friend she confided in tipped off the police.

Evidence of her abuse was presented in court but the court ruled that it was not enough to prove that she was a victim of domestic violence, and sentenced her to death in 2011.

The re-sentencing on Friday was hailed by rights groups.

Amnesty International's William Nee said it "could prove a landmark verdict for future cases where domestic violence is a mitigating factor".

However, he said a "dark shadow" was cast over the ruling by the recent detention of five women activists who had planned a demonstration against sexual harassment on public transport.

The women were released earlier this month.

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