Chinese court lowers Dutchman's sentence for neighbor's death

The appeals court in Beijing sentenced Dutch man Harm Fitié to 4.5 years in prison for his involvement in the death of his neighbor. A lower Chinese court previously sentenced him to 12 years, ANP reports.

Fitié was accused of pushing his neighbor off a rooftop, killing him. The Dutch man, living in Beijing, always maintained that neighbor Lu Zhichen was drunk and fell. There were no witnesses. His lawyer called this sentence a "fairer punishment, given the fact that it was never proven that Fitié intentionally injured his neighbor. 

The appeals court found the Dutch man guilty of death by negligence. In addition to a lower sentence, this also means that Fitié will not be deported after his release. 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is following the case through a lawyer. According to the news wire, this only happens in exceptional cases when the Dutch government has no confidence in a fair trial.

According to Fitié's lawyer Wang Fu, many mistakes were made during the process. After his arrest, the Dutch man was questioned multiple times without legal assistance. No forensic investigation was ever done. Lu's son changed his statement halfway through and the lawyer never had access to the medical file. Wang Fu hopes that the Dutch government will continue to exert pressure on China about this case. 

Fitié's father was able to shortly speak with him after the trial - the first contact with the Dutch man since his arrest in May 2015, according to the news wire. His girlfriend Diane Vandesmet said she had "mixed feelings" about the sentence. She hoped that Fitié would be released, but at least the sentence is now lower. "I hope that he can be released sooner with good behavior", she said. The two intend to stay in China.