Outcry over life term for evading highway tolls

The brother of a farmer sentenced to life in prison in central China for evading highway tolls has turned himself in to police, an official said yesterday, in a case that triggered a public outcry over the heavy punishment.

A court in Henan province sentenced farmer Shi Jianfeng to life imprisonment last month for fraud for avoiding highway tolls that added up to more than 3.68 million yuan (352,000).

But the court announced a retrial on Friday after news of the verdict triggered an uproar among Chinese.

On Saturday night, Shi's younger brother Shi Junfeng went to the public security bureau of Wuliang township in Henan to say his elder brother had taken the blame for him, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

An officer at the security bureau confirmed Shi Junfeng had turned himself in but said he did not know the details of the case.

Shi Junfeng said he had offered bribes to officials following his brother's detention and was promised that he would be released soon.

Shi, the farmer, was convicted of mounting fake military licence plates on his two trucks to avoid paying tolls while he ran a business transporting gravel. Military vehicles do no have to pay tolls.