07/26/2006, 00.00
CHINA
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80% of corrupt officials evade prison

A report by the Supreme People's Procuratorate– the highest judicial authority in the country – said top lawyers and bribes for judges ensure corrupt officials evade punishment and they often even get to keep their salary. Prosecutors are "angry and disappointed".

Beijing (AsiaNews/SCMP) – A report presented by China's Procuratorate – the highest judicial authority in the country – has slammed the national courts of justice for handing down suspended sentences or even exempting 80% of officials convicted of corruption.

The Procuratorate Daily said there was a "marked" increase in the granting of probation to political cadres convicted of taking bribes and other offences, and that many had been allowed to keep their salaries and jobs paid by the people.

The newspaper said more than 66% of officials accused of corruption and 80% of those found guilty of "dereliction of duty" were handed down suspended jail sentences or escaped punishment, up from about 50% in 2001.

"A total of 33,519 people convicted of taking advantage of their official duties were given probation between 2003 and 2005," wrote the author of the report. The data, however, did not to cover corrupt officials sentenced to life imprisonment or death sentences (later suspended), or others who were convicted of criminal charges.

Quoting local prosecutors and lawyers, the report said the information "dealt a heavy blow to the credibility of the government-led anti-corruption campaign", adding: "It is not simply a legal issue, but also a serious political matter."

Prosecutor, Zheng Xinjian, said: "My colleagues around the country have tried so hard to prosecute corrupt officials, which often involves resisting pressure and risking our lives. We are deeply disappointed and angry that these people are then released."

The daily said the problem arose from "loopholes" in laws and "rampant corruption" among local officials and judges involved in inquiries. An official from the Supreme People's Procuratorate said "many cadres use top lawyers and bribes to influence judicial punishment."

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