BEIJING - China's Supreme Court Friday revoked the sentence of a man, executed 21 years ago for raping and killing a woman in the northern Hebel province, after another man confessed to the crime.
Nie Shubin was executed in 1995 at the age of 21 years and the case resurfaced in 2005 when Wang Shujin admitted he had committed the crime.
In 2014, the Supreme Court decided to review the case and on Friday concluded that Nie was innocent.
The evidence used to sentence Nie was neither sufficient nor accurate and did not meet the conditions for a sentence, according to a statement by the court.
Nie confessed to the crime just a few days after his arrest although it appears he did it under pressure while in custody, his lawyer had said at the time.
In the statement, the Supreme Court says there are doubts regarding the veracity and legality of Nie's confession, which in principle corroborated the other evidence.
The court's decision was received with some bitterness by Nie's family, who has been proclaiming his innocence in the courts and his mother told a local daily that she was happy with the decision but that it had come too late.
In its latest report Amnesty International reported that torture continues to be a part of police routines in China, which has a very high percentage of sentences and the highest number of executions in the world, according to human rights groups.
"The overturning of the original verdict is a very positive move, and shows how some within the Chinese government - especially the Supreme People's Court - are willing to correct historic injustices," AI researcher William Nee said.
"However, this case also illustrates that the death penalty as currently applied in China is still flawed and prone to mistakes. The only way to truly ensure that tragic cases like Nie Shubin don't recur, is to stop tinkering with the machinery of death, and abolish the death penalty," he told EFE.