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Condemned Swiss given Chinese reprieve

The Swiss man is being held in Yunnan province in south-west China Keystone Archive

Chinese authorities have overturned the death sentence of a Swiss man found guilty of the attempted rape and murder of a Chinese schoolgirl in 1997.

The 34-year-old was sentenced in June 1999, but a spokesman for the Swiss Foreign Ministry said the ruling had been overturned.

The Chinese authorities communicated their decision to reduce the man’s sentence to life imprisonment via a letter to the Swiss embassy in Beijing last Thursday. Life imprisonment in China means that prisoners die in prison, there is no early release for good behaviour.

The man is being held in the town of Kunming in Yunnan province in south western China and is regularly visited by Swiss diplomats. His situation is said to be comfortable, with “sufficient” access to food.

Future uncertain

Relatives of the man were relieved by the decision, but his future is still far from uncertain.

It is not yet clear whether he will seek a shortening of his sentence or whether Swiss authorities will ask for him to be repatriated so that he can serve out his prison term in his home country. For this to happen the Foreign Ministry says an official agreement on the exchange of prisoners between the two countries would need to be signed.

The man never admitted that he was guilty of trying to rape the 16-year-old girl in the town of Jinghong in October 1999. He did however admit that he had attempted to strangle her but not to death.

The man was on an extended trip to Asia at the time of the attack.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR