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Court upholds death penalty in milk scandal
Updated: 2009-03-26 15:53

SHIJIAZHUANG  -- A court in north China's Hebei Province on Thursday dismissed appeals by a brother and sister involved in the Sanlu milk scandal, upholding a death sentence for one and an eight-year jail term for the other.

Two policemen stand guard outside the Shijiazhuang Intermediate People's court in Shijiazhuang, capital of north China's Hebei Province, March 26, 2009. Hebei High People's Court conducted the second public trial on tainted milk scandal related cases at the Shijiazhuang Intermediate People's court on Thursday. [Xinhua]

In the appeal trial Thursday morning, the Hebei High People's Court upheld the original verdict that charged Geng Jinping and Geng Jinzhu, brother and sister, with producing and selling poisoned food.

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Geng Jinping was sentenced to death and deprived of political rights, and his personal property would all be confiscated. Geng Jinzhu was sentenced to eight years in prison.

An appeal trial for a further two defendants, Zhang Yujun and Zhang Yanzhang is set for 1:30 p.m.. The two Zhangs were charged with endangering public security.

The four appealed for a second hearing after the first trial at the Shijiazhuang Intermediate People's Court two months ago.

The Intermediate Court has accepted a series of tainted milk scandal related cases, since December 26, 2008.

The court reached a verdict after the first trial on January 22, 2009. Zhang Yujun, who produced 770 tonnes of melamine-laced "protein powder" and sold more than 600 tonnes to others, and Geng Jinping, who sold more than 900 tonnes of milk tainted by 434 kg of protein powder to Sanlu, were both given death sentences.

Zhang was convicted of endangering public safety, while Geng was convicted of manufacturing and selling toxic food.

Also in the verdict of the first trial, Zhang Yanzhang, buyer of the "protein powder", was given life imprisonment, while Geng Jinzhu was sentenced to eight years in jail, with a 500,000 yuan fine.

Zhang Yujun and Zhang Yanzhang were accused of illegally concocting and selling the so-called "protein powder," which was mainly composed of melamine and malt dextrin. It was then added to raw milk to make it appear high in protein content.

Police said they found their illegal production workshop in the outskirts of Jinan, capital of east China's Shandong Province. The two were accused of producing 600 tonnes of the fake protein powder from September, 2007 to October, 2008.

At least six infants died and almost 300,000 got sick after consuming dairy products tainted with the industrial chemical melamine.

In an open letter in December, 2008, Sanlu and 21 other dairy companies offered 200,000 yuan (29,000 U.S. dollars) to each family whose child had died, and 30,000 yuan for serious illnesses such as kidney stones and acute kidney failure, 2,000 yuan was offered for each victim in less severe cases.