Judge suspended over life sentence

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The Independent Online

A judge and two court officials have been suspended after the life sentence they handed down to a farmer for evading motorway tolls sparked a public outcry.

The court in Henan province sentenced Shi Jianfeng to life in prison last week after finding him guilty of avoiding more than 3.68 million yuan (£350,000) in tolls.

He avoided tolls more than 2,300 times by putting fake military licence plates on his trucks as military vehicles are exempt from the tolls.

The official Xinhua News Agency said the president, deputy president, supervisor and chief judge of the Pingdingshan Municipal Intermediate People's Court were being questioned for failing properly to investigate the case. All were suspended from their posts except for the president, who was given a warning.

The move came after Mr Shi's younger brother, Shi Junfeng, turned himself in to police and said his imprisoned brother had taken the blame for him. Shi Junfeng also told police he had offered bribes to officials after his brother's detention so that his brother would be released.

Chinese internet users argued in posts that the penalty was excessive because shorter sentences were imposed for rape and murder. The comments also strayed beyond Mr Shi's case to popular complaints that highway tolls were too high.