Convicts in China Milk Scandal Appeal Sentences

BEIJING (AP) - Four people given hefty sentences including the
death penalty for involvement in China's deadly tainted milk
scandal appealed their decisions before a court Thursday.

Six children died and nearly 300,000 were sickened after baby
formula was contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine,
which is high in nitrogen, in an effort to fool quality tests for
protein content. When ingested, melamine can cause kidney stones
and kidney failure.

Four middlemen were found guilty earlier this year for their
roles in supplying hundreds of tons of melamine-tainted milk to the
dairies named in the scandal. Two were sentenced to death, another
to life in prison, and one to eight years.

The appeals were heard in the northern city of Shijiazhuang,
home of the dairy at the center of the scandal, the now-defunct
Sanlu Group Co. A man who answered the phone at the Shijiazhuang
Intermediate Court said Thursday that justices from the Hebei
Province High People's Court were there to hear the cases. He hung
up before giving further details.

This week, a northern Chinese court also accepted a compensation
lawsuit against Sanlu, the first in the country to do so, state
media reported Wednesday.

"This is the first time a court has accepted a lawsuit (in the
scandal), so we applaud the decision," lawyer Peng Jian said.

The court's decision comes after a top official of China's
highest court, Shen Deyong, announced this month that parents of
sickened children who rejected government compensation were welcome to sue Sanlu and 21 other dairies involved in the tainted milk
scandal.

Peng said the family was asking for 31,000 yuan ($4,538) in
compensatory damages from Sanlu, which was based in Shijiazhuang.
Peng said the victim, an 11-month-old girl, had become ill after
drinking Sanlu's infant formula.

The government has offered one-time payouts using money from
dairies named in the scandal, but families that take the money
cannot sue for more unless they can prove they were forced to agree
to the compensation plan.

Some 500 families have rejected the offer in hopes of winning
higher compensation from the companies involved. About another 100
families accepted the compensation from the dairies but still
wanted higher payouts than what the government-sanctioned plan
offered.

The tainted milk scandal caused outrage and shook China's often
unresponsive legal system into action, culminating in a law that
consolidates disparate regulations covering the country's 500,000
food processing companies.


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