BEIJING (Reuters) - A court in China on Thursday exonerated four men who had been originally sentenced to death for rape and murder, in the latest case of courts overturning dubious verdicts.

The high court in Jiangxi province said the four men, who had been accused of the murder of a woman in 2000, were not guilty.

The court's deputy chief justice apologised to the men and said they had the right to seek compensation, it said.

The four had been given death sentences in 2003, which they appealed. In 2006, the verdict was reduced to a death sentence suspended for two years, which in practice is often commuted to life in jail.


The provincial high court accepted their appeal last year.

The court, in a statement on its website, said there were inconsistencies in the forensic evidence and the suspects' confessions, which could have been coerced.

"This case lacks objective evidence," the court said.

The court will learn the lessons from the case and in future strictly judge cases in accordance with the facts, the evidence and the law, it added.

China has seen a string of high-profile miscarriages of justice in recent years, attracting widespread attention.

Wrongful executions have often stirred public outrage in China, particularly over confessions extracted under torture, but capital punishment itself has wide support.

China's highest legal body this month exonerated a 21-year-old man executed in 1995 following a conviction of rape and murder, saying the evidence against him had been insufficient.

In 2014, a court posthumously acquitted an ethnic Mongol, Huugjilt, who had been executed for raping and killing a woman in a public restroom, a miscarriage of justice that sparked widespread anger.

Huugjilt, like many ethnic Mongols, went by a single name.

Another man was later sentenced to death for the crime.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)