XI'AN: A former county police chief was sentenced on Tuesday to two years in prison for his role in the in-custody death of a 19-year-old high school student.
Yan Yaofeng, formerly the director of the public security bureau in Danfeng county, Shaanxi province, was convicted of abuse of power.
Three of Yan's colleagues, Zhao Shuo, Jia Yangang and Li Hongwei, were convicted and jailed for two and half years, one and half years and a year, respectively. The police officials were convicted of torture.
Another police officer standing trial Tuesday, Wang Qingbao, was convicted of dereliction of duty, but he was not given a criminal penalty.
High school student Xu Gengrong, suspected at the time of having raped and killed his schoolmate, Peng Lina, died suddenly during the investigation while in a police station on March 8.
Xu's family members were unhappy with the verdicts. They blocked the exit of the court after the sentences were handed down last night, demanding harsher penalties for the police officers.
The proceedings were held at Shangnan county people's court, Shaanxi province. According to court director Song Tao, the trial was held in Shangnan, a neighboring county of Danfang, to ensure a fair trial. Holding a trial in another jurisdiction is a rarity in China.
There was a large turnout of people hoping to see justice done. Many people applied to hear the trial but the court only let in around 80 members of the public and media because of limited space.
Shangnan county people's procuratorate accused the five of abuse of power, negligence and torture following Xu's death, which took place during the investigation of the murder that happened on Feb 10.
Eight lawyers represented the defendants.
Prosecutors claimed the five tortured Xu during their investigation.
Xu had been taken to a police station at about 11 pm on Feb 28. He is understood to have fainted in the police station on March 8. He was pronounced dead at a hospital after emergency treatment, prosecutors said.
Xu's parents and relatives claimed to have found wounds on his body and refused to accept the police bureau's insistence that Xu died of heart disease.
Xu's death drew widespread criticism and, on March 21, the local government removed Yan from his post while additional investigation into the in-custody death was carried out.
The other four police officials were detained on March 28.
During eight hours of court proceedings the court heard that the defendants blamed each other for the abuse and for ordering the abuse.
Xu's death and several other fatalities in detention houses raised public concern about the management of the facilities.
Prosecutors found 6,430 violations in the management of detention and prison facilities between January and June - a year-on-year rise of 114 percent, Sun Qian, deputy procurator-general of the Supreme People's Procuratorate said in July.
"Due to imperfect management and the poor condition of facilities there are occasions of unnatural deaths of inmates, bringing new challenges to prosecutors' inspection and supervision work," Sun said.