In a rare move, a Chinese court has acquitted a death-row inmate convicted of murder in a sign that the country's heavily controlled judiciary system has become more cautious in cases involving death sentences.

Citing insufficient evidence, the high court of the eastern province of Fujian overturned the guilty verdict against Nian Bin, a grocery shop owner accused of fatally poisoning a fellow villager's two children in 2006.

Nian was immediately freed after the announcement. He spent eight years behind bars and repeatedly appealed his guilty verdict, with lawyers saying he was tortured into confessing to the crime.

Critics say political pressure to solve homicide cases often leads to wrongful convictions based on coerced confessions. Nian's case attracted some of China's most prominent lawyers and wide attention in social media.