Four men in eastern China accused of murder and rape have been exonerated after a 16-year legal ordeal in the latest instance of Chinese courts overturning deeply flawed verdicts.

A Jiangxi province high court announced Thursday it cleared the men accused of killing a woman in 2000, apologized and offered the opportunity to seek compensation. The men had been sentenced to death by a municipal court in 2003 based on dubious confessions and successfully appealed. The same lower court reheard the trial and sentenced the defendants to death again the following year, only to be overruled again by the provincial court in 2006.

The provincial court reviewed the case this year and determined that forensic evidence did not match confessions given by the defendants, who said they had been tortured.