November 25, 2014 / 12:09 PM / 3 years ago

Chinese police again probe acquitted death row prisoner: lawyer

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police are investigating a former death row prisoner and curbing his movements, three months after he was acquitted of the charge of poisoning two children, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

The latest move by the police raises concerns about China's commitment to the rule of law, after the rare acquittal prompted renewed calls for the abolition of the death penalty.

Nian Bin, a former food stall owner, was freed in August after a court in the southern province of Fujian said there was insufficient evidence to back up a charge of "placing dangerous materials" against him.

But Nian "is now considered a suspect" by police in his Fujian home county of Pingtan, who "have put him under control", said his lawyer, Si Weijiang, who called the move illegal.

Police in Pingtan could not be reached for comment.

The latest step reflected a refusal by the police to accept the court's decision, Si added.

"There is no rule of law," he said. "The public security bureau did not give the reason for this. The key now is to see if they have new evidence, but I doubt there will be."

Nian was accused of poisoning his neighbors with rat poison, leading to the death of two children and injuries to four others in July 2006, rights group Amnesty International says.

Nian said he was tortured into confessing during police interrogation. He pursued his appeals for six years, in an effort closely watched by human rights lawyers in China and global rights groups.

In October, the ruling Communist Party said it would prevent "extorting confessions by torture" and halt miscarriages of justice with a "timely correction mechanism", after a series of corruption investigations involving torture outraged the public.

But legal scholars are skeptical about significant change under one-party rule. The government has been silent on establishing an independent judiciary or reining in the police, a powerful agency in China.

Rights groups say China uses capital punishment more than any other country, raising public concern of irreversible miscarriages of justice.

Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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