BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese court granted a woman who killed her husband after years of abuse a two-year death sentence reprieve, state media said on Friday, a move cautiously welcomed by human rights activists.
The death sentence for Li Yan, 44, is expected to be commuted to a prison term after two years of good behavior, a shift which follows an unprecedented retrial last June that some hailed as a signal China was serious about battling domestic violence.
The decision in Li’s case, which has been widely discussed on the Internet in China, comes as authorities have also drawn global criticism for the recent detention of five women activists who had planned to demonstrate against sexual harassment on public transport.
The Ziyang City Intermediate People’s Court in southwestern Sichuan province ruled on Friday that Li’s actions constituted homicide but disagreed about the extent of the punishment.
“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 court said, according to Sichuan Online, a website run by the ruling Communist Party’s Sichuan Daily.
The court could not be reached immediately for comment.
Li was originally sentenced to death in 2012 for killing her husband Tan Yong, who had physically, sexually and verbally abused her for more than three years, burning her with cigarettes and cutting off one of her fingers.
Li beat her husband to death with an air gun after he threatened to shoot her. She then cut up his body and boiled the body parts, media reports said.
“The reprieve for Li Yan could prove a landmark verdict for future cases where domestic violence is a mitigating factor,” William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International, said in an emailed statement.
“Yet, the continued persecution of five young activists that campaign to prevent violence against women casts a dark shadow on this ruling,” Nee said.
China released the five women on bail last week after an outcry from the West and Chinese rights campaigners. Their lawyers, however, have said that they remain suspects and their freedoms are still restricted.
The women were taken into custody on the weekend of March 8, International Women’s Day, and detained on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”.
Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Nick Macfie