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ATM 'thief' back in court
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A court in south China on Friday began a rehearing of the case of a 24-year-old migrant worker who was jailed for life last year for taking cash from a malfunctioning automatic teller machine.

The Intermediate People's Court of Guangzhou was told by the Guangdong Provincial Higher Court last month to rehear the case of Xu Ting because the ruling in November lacked evidence and some facts needed clarification.

Xu's lawyer Wu Yichun said on Thursday that Xu would maintain innocence.

Xu's father Xu Cailiang, who arrived from the northern Shanxi Province on Thursday, insisted his son was not a criminal. "He made a mistake, and so did the bank and its ATM. It's not a matter of embezzlement or theft."

The father, who finished only junior high school, has been studying law since his son, a security guard in Guangzhou, was convicted of theft last year.

"The case has aroused widespread attention and debate. Even if we cannot reverse the court's ruling, we hope it would prompt law amendments in the future and others caught in similar cases would not be wronged," he said.

In April 2006, Xu Ting, from Linfen City in Shanxi, let his friend in on his secret that an ATM of Guangzhou Commercial Bank deducted only 1 yuan from his account for every 1,000 yuan withdrawn.

Xu subsequently withdrew 175,000 yuan (24,000 U.S. dollars) in 171 transactions while his friend Guo withdrew 18,000 yuan.

Guo was jailed for a year after turning himself in while Xu remained on the run for a year before being caught in May last year. He was sentenced to life for theft in the first trial.

The sentence sparked an outcry from local media and legal experts alike. Many people said Xu did not deserve the life sentence.

Beijing-based lawyer Du Yonghao held the bank was partially to blame for the case.

The Guangzhou company that runs the ATM compensated the bank three days after Xu withdrew the cash, said Xu's lawyer Wu Yichun.

(Xinhua News Agency February 22, 2008)

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