Life sentence for ex-China Supreme Court justice

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BEIJING (AP) — A former Chinese Supreme Court judge was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday following his conviction for embezzlement and receiving more than half a million dollars in bribes.

One-time court vice president Huang Songyou is the first judicial official of his stature to be tried and convicted on such charges, part of a continuing battle by the Communist Party against deep-seated corruption.

Formally known as the Supreme People’s Court, the body is the highest judicial panel in China with wide-ranging powers including overseeing lower courts and automatically reviewing all death sentences. The court has 13 members, with its grand justice also sitting on the party’s decision-making Central Committee.

Huang’s entire property also was confiscated as part of the ruling, according to a brief report by the official China News Service.

Huang was accused of taking 3.9 million yuan ($574,000) in bribes from a law firm in return for favorable rulings on cases between 2005 and 2008.

He was also charged with embezzling 1.2 million yuan ($176,000) in government funds while serving as president of a city level court in the southern province of Guangdong in 1997.

Huang was fired and kicked out of the party in August and went on trial last Thursday at the Langfang Municipal Intermediate Court in Hebei province just outside Beijing. Calls to the court rang unanswered on Tuesday.

China hopes such high-profile takedowns of leading Communist Party members will scare the rank and file straight.

Shanghai’s former powerful Communist Party chief, Chen Liangyu, became the most senior official to fall when he was sentenced in 2008 to 18 years in prison for his role in a pension fund scandal.

In 2007, the director of China’s food and drug agency was executed for approving deadly fake medicine in exchange for cash.