Farmer wins right to appeal fraud conviction over fake tiger photos
XI’AN – The farmer who faked photographs of the endangered South China tiger in the wild will have his fraud conviction re-examined by a higher court next month, his new legal team announced after their first meeting with him on Friday.
Zhou Zhenglong, 54, was jailed for two and a half years after his conviction at Xunyang County People’s Court, in the northwestern province of Shaanxi, on September 27.
Zhou formally contracted two lawyers on Friday afternoon. Gu Yushu, attorney from Beijing Kingdom Law Firm, and Yang Jianjun, lawyer of Shaanxi Jindi Law Firm, promised to defend Zhou for free.
Xunyang County People’s Court, where Zhou was also fined 2,000 yuan (US$293) in the first court hearing, said his appeal application was transferred to Ankang Municipal Intermediate People’s Court on Friday morning.
An appeal hearing should be opened in a month or at most one and a half months according to regulations, said a spokesman for his legal team.
Zhou staged the pictures of a South China tiger in order to win an alleged 100,000 yuan in prize money. The tiger is a subspecies that has not been seen in the wild in China for years.
According to court documents, Zhou shot 62 photos of a poster of tiger, which he disguised in foliage on October 3, 2007.
The provincial forestry department announced the news to the public on October12 and gave him a 20,000-yuan reward.
His defense lawyers claimed Zhou was not solely responsible for the bad publicity generated by the case, saying the “cursory release of the news by relevant departments” helped promulgate the fraud.
Thirteen government staff in Shaanxi were sacked or reprimanded as a result of the case.