September 14, 2020
Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for September 7-13, 2020: Hanoi Court Holds First-instance Hearing to Try 29 Dong Tam Land Petitioners, Heavy Sentences Expected
Defend the Defenders | September 13, 2020
Eight months after the bloody raid in Dong Tam commune in early 2020 in which the riot police brutally shot to death communal leader Le Dinh Kinh and arrested nearly 30 local land petitioners, the communist regime started the first-instance hearing to try 25 farmers on the allegation of “murder” and four others on the charge of “resisting on-duty state officials” on September 7 and the trial was scheduled to last ten days.
Like other political cases, relatives of the defendants and friends were not allowed to enter the courtroom. Authorities in Hanoi and other localities sent plainclothes agents to private residences of local activists and relatives of the defendants in the days the court was held in a bid to prevent them from going to the court areas. In the courtroom, only the defendants and their lawyers were permitted to enter along with the trial panel and security officers.
During the hearing, there was clear violations of the trial panel to the Criminal Procedure Code as the presiding judge has ignored a number of requests from defending lawyers, including summoning important witnesses and individuals related to the police raid on January 9 and the need to conduct an experiment of a crime scene enactment which would clarify the deaths of three police officers as the police reported, as well as clarification of the secret plan of the Hanoi Police Department approved by the Ministry of Public Security on deploying thousands of riot police to Dong Tam to carry out the persecution against elderly Le Dinh Kinh’s family.
As many as 19 out of 29 defendants admitted that they were tortured during the pre-trial detention for coercive confession, however, the trial panel has no response.
There are numerous discrepancies between the police’s Investigation Conclusion, the Procuracy’s Indictment, and the defendants’ testimonies as well as the facts collected by independent observers in the case.
Instead of conducting the trial in ten days as planned, the presiding judge has announced the end of the hearing after four days and informed that the trial panel would announce a final decision on September 14 although defending lawyers calls for suspension of the hearing and re-investigation of the case. After two days of the hearing, the People’s Procuracy of Hanoi proposed the capital punishment for Le Dinh Cong and Le Dinh Chuc, two sons of Mr. Le Dinh Kinh, and life imprisonment of his grandson Le Dinh Doanh. Three other land petitioners were proposed to the imprisonment of between 14 years and 18 years.
The Procuracy has also amended the charge against 19 land petitioners from “murder” to “resisting on-duty state officials,” so 23 of them were proposed punishment of between 15 months in probation to seven years in prison.
The communist regime continues its persecution against members of the unregistered professional group Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN) after arresting its President Pham Chi Dung and Vice President Nguyen Tuong Thuy. On September 1-8, two members named Nguyen Thien Nhan from Ho Chi Minh City and Hoang Van Hung from Hanoi were summoned by the local police for questioning about the organization and their writing. Mr. Do Thanh Nhan from the central province of Quang Ngai was also summoned for interrogation on September 10, however, due to his unavailability, he denied to appear to the police station.
Police in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau continue its persecution against local religious activist Tran Van Thuong’s family. After kidnapping his son Tran Van Khuong to the police headquarters of Xuyen Moc district for questioning, police brutally beat him and his son Tran Van Khe when they went to the police station to ask about Khuong.
===== September 7 =====
Statement of Mr. Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director of Human Rights Watch, on the case of the Dong Tam villagers
“There are major concerns about due process and the right to a fair trial for the 29 villagers facing charges for incidents in Dong Tam. Use of torture and forced confessions are common in police custody in Vietnam. The courts are far from independent and pre-determined outcomes dictated by the ruling communist party are trademarks of Vietnam’s so-called justice system. Defendants’ access to their lawyers is extremely limited and occurs only after the police have completed their interrogations and finished their investigation. There are still many unanswered questions about what happened during the Dong Tam raid that may never been answered in Hanoi’s rush to convict these defendants. Quite clearly, the authorities want to hit them with very harsh penalties to warn off others who might dare to challenge state authority in the future. Given the widespread interest in this case, Vietnam should allow independent international observers including diplomats, journalists and NGOs to observe the trial, and end harassment and surveillance of the family members of the accused.”
On September 7, 2020, the People’s Court of Hanoi is scheduled to hear the cases of 29 villagers in Dong Tam commune, Hanoi. The villagers were arrested after an incident occurred early morning on January 9, 2020 that resulted in the death of one villager and three police officers. 25 villagers are being prosecuted for murder under article 123 of the penal code, with a penalty up to death sentence. Another four protesters face charges of resistance against persons on public duty under penal article 330, which provides a penalty up to seven years in prison.
There have been many problems of due process regarding the Dong Tam incident. Less than a week after the incident and the arrests of farmers, Vietnam national television aired confessions of four villagers, all of them with many bruises on their faces. In March, Du Thi Thanh filed a criminal report about the January attack that led to the death of her husband to a different government office, but she did not receive any response, which was against the law. But the police indirectly acknowledged that they received her report by dismissing it in the investigation conclusion.
In June 2020, the police sent the investigation conclusion to the People’s Procuracy of Hanoi, which issued an indictment on June 25, reported on state media. However, the People’s Procuracy of Hanoi repeatedly rejected requests from defense lawyers to access the case files. It was not until July 1, 2020 that several lawyers finally received the indictment. But still, they were not granted access to the case files until August, just a few weeks before the scheduled trial. Lawyer Le Van Hoa told a reporter at BBC Vietnamese service that as of August 30, he was granted meetings with only three out of four clients who he will be defending. No client has been allowed to meet with defense lawyers without being watched by government employees.
The Vietnamese authorities also put a gag order on critical opinions of the Dong Tam clash. In April, a court in Can Tho convicted and sentenced a man to 18 months in prison for sharing news about Dong Tam that was not in favor of the government. In June, police arrested former political prisoner Can Thi Theu and her sons Trinh Ba Phuong and Trinh Ba Tu for speaking up tirelessly about the Dong Tam land clash. Trinh Ba Phuong was instrumental in sharing the voices of Dong Tam villagers to the public after the incident. All three were charged with conducting propaganda against the state.
The land dispute in Dong Tam commune between local farmers and the government became a hot issue in 2014 when the authorities decided to confiscate land for the army. Farmers claimed that a part of the land was not in the original lot slated in 1980 for the army to build a military airport. In April 2017, the police arrested four members of Dong Tam commune. Among those arrested was Le Dinh Kinh, who was 81-year-old at the time and used to be police chief, chairman, and communist party secretary of the commune. During the arrest, the police reportedly broke his hip bone. At that time, in an unprecedented move in the recent history of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Dong Tam farmers detained and held in hostage 38 people including policemen and government officials for one week. After intensive negotiations and promises from then Chairman of Hanoi Nguyen Duc Chung that the government would not retaliate against villagers and would carry out a comprehensive review of the land claims, all hostages were released unharmed.
Dong Tam Trial Opens in Vietnam, Defense Cites Violations of Due Process
RFA: The trial in Vietnam of 29 villagers detained after a deadly land clash near Hanoi opened this week with defense lawyers protesting irregularities in court procedure, objecting to a film shown in court and telling the judge they are being denied the right to meet with their clients during the trial.
The trial opened Monday, with the group facing charges of murder and obstruction for what prosecutors said was their role in the clash over land rights that left three police officers and a protest leader dead in January at the Dong Tam commune outside Hanoi.
Dong Tam village elder Le Dinh Kinh, 84, was shot and killed by police during the early-morning Jan. 9 raid on the village by 3,000 security officers intervening in a long-running dispute over a military airport construction site about 25 miles south of the capital.
At the lunch break on the first day of the 10-day trial, ten defense attorneys filed an application with the chief justice of the People’s Court of Hanoi pointing to what they described as violations of court procedure and demanding the lawyers’ right to meet with their clients during the trial.
A documentary on the Dong Tam clash broadcast by the court also presented the government’s point of view in falsely accusing the defendants of committing crimes, thereby prejudicing their right to a fair trial, defense attorney Dang Dinh Manh told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Monday.
“I challenged this, because the documentary had been heavily edited and had not been submitted as evidence in the case,” he said.
Video clips were also shown in which defendants appeared to confess their guilt, but which had never been shown to defense attorneys in the case, Dang said, adding, “ According to law, everything that is submitted must be included in the pre-trial profile for the case, and lawyers have the right to learn about them first.”
Forced confessions common
“Use of torture and forced confessions are common in police custody in Vietnam,” Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director of Human Rights Watch said in a Sept. 7 statement, noting that detainees shown confessing on Vietnamese television less than a week after the Dong Tam clash had “many bruises on their faces.”
“There are still many unanswered questions about what happened during the Dong Tam raid that may never be answered in Hanoi’s rush to convict these defendants,” Robertson said. “Quite clearly, the authorities want to hit them with very harsh penalties to warn off others who might dare to challenge state authority in the future.”
To support transparency and fairness in the trial, Vietnam should allow international observers including journalists, diplomats, and nongovernmental organizations to observe proceedings in the court, Robertson said.
Defendants’ relatives and other Dong Tam residents, some of whom had walked the 35 miles from their commune to the court, were meanwhile blocked from attending the trial on Monday, while many activists living in Hanoi were stopped by police from leaving their homes.
“This morning, relatives of the 29 defendants and other villagers arrived at the court in Hanoi, but no one was allowed to go in to observe the trial. Police even forced us to stay away from the courthouse gate,” one Dong Tam resident told RFA on Monday.
“We could only get updates on information about the trial on the television, but these broadcasts were cut and edited incorrectly,” the resident said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation by the authorities.
Closely watched by police
Hanoi-based activist Le Hoang said that police had watched the front of his house all night before the trial, working in shifts, while detained activist Trinh Ba Phuong’s wife Do Thi Thu said that a large number of police dressed in plain clothes had arrived at her house on Monday morning and were “watching me and my parents very closely.”
On Tuesday, a group of six Vietnamese civil society organizations and individuals and over 50 local residents sent a letter to Vietnam’s President Nguyen Phu Trong and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, demanding that authorities protect Bui Viet Hieu, a defendant in the trial, whose testimony in court has contradicted statements by police on the death of Le Dinh Kinh.
Bui should now be transferred to a detention center not under the authority of local police, and the 29 defendants’ trial should be postponed, with Vietnam’s National Assembly sending representatives to oversee the investigation and prosecution of the case, the petition said.
While all land in Vietnam is ultimately held by the state, land confiscations have become a flashpoint as residents accuse the government of pushing small landholders aside in favor of lucrative real estate projects, and of paying too little in compensation
===== September 8 =====
Persecution against Vietnam Independent Journalists Group Continues, Many Members Questioned
Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s security forces continue the persecution against the unregistered professional group Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN) after arresting its key members, conducting summoning some other members for interrogation in recent days.
Mr. Hoang Van Hung from Hanoi said he was summoned by the Security Investigation Agency of the Hanoi Police Department to its office on September 1 for questioning about his membership to the organization and his activities as well as writing for its website vietnamthoibao.org.
During the interrogation, Mr. Hung admitted that he is a member of IJAVN and has some articles posted on its website, however, he did not remember details of his writing. He refused to give other details, including the passwords of his accounts on Gmail and other online applications.
Several days later, Mr. Nguyen Thien Nhan, a member of the IJAVN’s Board Management was also summoned to the Security Investigation Agency of Ho Chi Minh City’s Police Department for questioning on September 8. During the interrogation which lasted from 8 am to 5 pm, police officers gave numerous questions about the IJAVN and his involvement in the organization. However, he did not give details as the investigators requested him to keep the content of the interrogation unpublicized.
Nhan said before going to the questioning meeting, he gave his phones and laptop to his trusted friend so the interrogators had no access to them. Police told him that he has to undergo other interrogations in the future and give his laptop and phones to police for checking.
In the early morning of September 10, two policemen came to another IJAVN’s member named Do Thanh Nhan in the central province of Quang Ngai to handle over a summon letter in which the local police requested him to be present to a police station in the same morning for questioning about the case involved other IJAVN’s members. Mr. Nhan denied, saying he had not enough time for going there but promised to go another time. He was questioned once about the IJAVN and its President Pham Chi Dung.
The IJAVN was established in 2014 with the aim to work for freedom of the press in the one-party regime. Numerous articles of its members have criticized the regime on various issues, including human rights abuse, systemic corruption, widespread environmental pollution due to the regime’s unstable economic development, the government weak response to China’s violations to the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea), bad economic policies, etc.
The communist government probably is affected by such articles so it is striving to silence the IJAVN. Along with using technology to attack IJAVN’s website, Vietnam’s security forces have been implementing series of measures to persecute its members, from preventing them to gather or meet with foreign diplomats to arresting a number of its key members.
In early November last year, HCM City Police Department arrested its President Dr. Pham Chi Dung, who was honored with the Information Hero award of the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code with imprisonment of between seven to 12 years or even up to 20 years. Next year, on May 23, the police arrested acting President Nguyen Tuong Thuy after detaining blogger Pham Chi Thanh (penname Pham Thanh) two days earlier. The two independent writers at their 70-year age were charged with the same allegation. The persecution against the organization continues with the arrest of another member named Le Huu Minh Tuan on June 12, and police threaten to detain more members of the organization in a bid to expand the case.
Vietnam, placed at 175th out of 180 countries in the Press Freedom Index of RSF in 2020, has arrested 18 bloggers so far this year, 12 of them were charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” and four others were alleged of “abusing democratic freedom” for criticizing the communist government.
===== September 9 =====
Many Dong Tam Land Petitioners Say They Were Tortured during Interrogation
Defend the Defenders: Many land petitioners from Dong Tam who are defendants in the ongoing first-instance hearing held by the People’s Court of Hanoi in Vietnam’s capital city have admitted that they were tortured during the investigation, according to human rights lawyer Dang Dinh Manh.
On September 9, the third day of the trial planned to last for 10 days, when attorney Manh asked all the 29 defendants who have not been tortured during the pre-trial detention to raise their hands, only 10 of them raised their hands. The remaining 19 land petitioners, including Mr. Le Dinh Cong- a son of killed communal leader Le Dinh Kinh, indirectly confirmed that they were beaten during interrogation.
Before that, when lawyer Manh asked Mr. Cong whether he was tortured in the pre-trial detention, the defendant replied that he was beaten by an investigator named Pham Viet Anh every day from the day he was arrested. The police officer used a rubber baton to beat him, Cong added.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bui Viet Hieu, the oldest defendant in the case, said he was forced by interrogators to make false confessions during the pre-trial detention. Investigators requested him to speak out what they want and recorded. During the trial, the procuracy used the record as evidence against him.
The court has no action responding to the defendants’ accusation of being tortured.
On Wednesday, the Hanoi People’s Procuracy proposed a death sentence for Mr. Cong and his brother Le Dinh Chuc, and life imprisonment for Le Dinh Doanh. Three other land petitioners elderly Bui Viet Hieu, a member of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam who said he witnessed a police officer shot and killed Mr. Kinh, Nguyen Quoc Tien, and Nguyen Van Tuyen were facing imprisonment between 14 years and 18 years on the allegation of “murder.”
The Procuracy has also proposed to change the allegation of 19 defendants from “murder” to “resisting on-duty state officials,” raising the total number of the land petitioners alleged of the accusation to 23, with suggested sentences of between 15 months of probation to seven years in prison.
The first-instance hearing against 29 Dong Tam land petitioners may end in the coming days instead of lasting two weeks as planned.
Related article from RFA: Defendants in Vietnam’s Dong Tam Trial Allege Torture in Custody
====== September 10 ======
Vietnamese Police Follow Dong Tam Defense Lawyers, Seize Computer Notes of Trial
RFA: Lawyers representing 29 villagers on trial for their role in a deadly land-rights clash in January at a commune near Hanoi were followed by strangers after leaving court on Thursday, shortly after police had seized one lawyer’s USB drive holding notes on the day’s proceedings, sources said.
The 29 face charges of murder and obstruction for what prosecutors say was their role in the clash over a bitter, decades-old land dispute that left three police officers and a protest leader dead in January at the Dong Tam commune near the capital.
On Thursday, the fourth day of a trial for which a ruling is expected on Sept. 14, unidentified men began to trail the lawyers as soon as they left the courthouse gate, Ngo Anh Tuan, one of the defense attorneys told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
“We tried to lose them three or four times, but they managed to follow us even still,” Ngo said.
Ngo told RFA that he and other defense attorneys were now sheltering safely at his office, adding, “At the time, we were worried only that we would be stopped and attacked, so that they could take our laptop computers away from us.”
Security officers present in the court on Thursday had earlier seized a USB drive from one of the lawyers representing the defendants, Nguyen H Luan, another defense attorney, wrote in an account published on his Facebook page.
“Enforcement officials took the USB drive away by force and wouldn’t let any of us copy it. One plainclothes officer also shoved lawyers Dang Dinh Manh and Nguyen Van Mieng,” Nguyen wrote.
Dong Tam village elder Le Dinh Kinh, 84, was shot and killed by police during the early-morning Jan. 9 raid on the village by 3,000 security officers intervening in a long-running dispute over a military airport construction site about 25 miles south of the capital.
Tortured by police
The trial opened Monday, with defense lawyers protesting irregularities in court procedure, objecting to a film they described as film shown in court, and telling the judge presiding in the case they are being denied the right to meet with their clients.
In testimony reported on Wednesday by RFA, but not covered in Vietnam’s state-controlled media, 19 in the group of 29 testified on Tuesday that they had been tortured by police during interrogations following their arrest over the Dong Tam clash, with one saying he had been beaten with a rubber club for ten consecutive days.
On Wednesday, the third day of the trial, the People’s Procuracy of Hanoi called for two death sentences in the case, one for defendant Le Dinh Cong and one for defendant Le Dinh Chuc, both accused of murder in the deaths of three police officers killed in the Jan. 9 clash.
All three were killed in the assault when they were attacked by petrol bombs and fell into a concrete shaft when they ran between two houses, according to state media reports.
On Thursday, a state lawyer serving in the trial objected to requests by defense attorneys Dang Dinh Manh, Nguyen Ha Luan, and Le Van Luan to recreate the scene of the officers’ deaths, saying this would cause unnecessary suffering to the men’s surviving family members.
Defense attorney Le said however that it would be necessary to re-stage the details in the case in order to establish the truth of what had really occurred.
“We don’t want to reawaken any pain, but to avoid another kind of pain—the pain of injustice and of wrongful convictions taking place,” Le said.
“Unjust trial outcomes have often resulted from mistakes and errors committed during the interrogation process and during the experimental recreation of crime scenes,” added defense attorney Ngo. “Therefore, if we want to really arrive at the objective truth in this case, we must carefully recreate the crime scene.”
Final sentencing in the Dong Tam trial is expected on Sept. 14, sources familiar with the trial said.
While all land in Vietnam is ultimately held by the state, land confiscations have become a flashpoint as residents accuse the government of pushing small landholders aside in favor of lucrative real estate projects, and of paying too little in compensation to farming families displaced by development.
Other news from different sources on Dong Tam case:
Dong Tam villagers’ trial (the trial) came to a sudden end on Day 4, Sept 10; Defendants’ last statements
Voice of the People, Sept 10 https://baotiengdan.com/2020/09/10/vi-khet-o-day-noi/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=vi-khet-o-day-noi
Fb of defence lawyer Mr. Ngo Anh Tuan Ngô Anh Tuấn
Mr. Tuan wrote on his Fb on Sept 10: (summarised): The trial has ended much earlier than predicted. [Hanoi Court had previously announced it would last 10 days on Sept 7-17] Even though we the defence lawyers faced difficulties at several phases but those things were needed for security reasons, etc. so we didn’t mind. Inside the courtroom, things were also well organized…, we had nothing to complain about. Even though the Chief Judge was under pressure from various directions, he had managed the trial quite well… However, at the last hours of this morning session (Sept 10), everything seemed to change.
As the lawyers were engaging in legal debate with the Procurators’ Office representatives about several issues, suddenly the Chief Judge declared that the debate session had ended and the court now moved to the deliberation stage, at the lawyers’ and even the Procurators’ Office representatives’ complete surprise. It appeared that [the Chief Judge] hid something that even the Procurators’ Office representatives should not know.
In the afternoon [Sept 10], the defendants presented their final statements, the majority of which had the same ‘content’, they sounded identical to each other: ‘apologize to the plaintiffs being families of the three deceased policemen, thank the teachers in the prison who had educated them so they could realize their mistakes, thank the lawyers and refuse their representation or recommend the lawyers not to demand the case be returned to the investigation bureau so it can be re-investigated, and lastly ask for a reduced sentence.”
These were clearly statements that had been ‘learned by rote’ based on a prepared drama script that those who are familiar with the court all know; as defendants are not allowed to be in the same room, if they had not been ‘directed’, how could their script be delivered so smoothly – Mr Tuan opined.
Ms. Bui Thi Noi was perhaps the only defendant who didn’t learn by rote but delivered her final statement from the heart. She was also the only defendant who dared pose questions to the court on Day 2 during her questioning by the jury panel.
“May I raise my hands [to ask questions], how come we have the law yet the law is trampled on. Was it according to the law, when my dad [slain Mr. Le Dinh Kinh was her foster father] was lured to [Senh] field where he was arrested, his mouth was stuffed with rags, his leg was beaten to the point it was broken…”
Her final statement at court on Sept 10: See Fb of defence lawyer Mr. Le Van Luan LS Lê Văn Luân viết về bà Nối “My dad [slain Mr Le Dinh Kinh] was a member of the Party for 58 years, we live in peace time, yet he and three other comrades [the deceased policemen] had to sacrifice their lives. Four comrades had [lost] their lives in this peaceful world, as though we were living in war time, and their deaths had not been caused by the enemy. Like me, I was shot at the chest [during the attack on 9 Jan 2020], my chest has the scar caused by a bullet, but I didn’t die. I only hope we will make a wise choice, and take a new, better road.”
She faces 4-5 years in prison.
Mr. Le Van Luan wrote about her on his Fb: “Ms. Bui Thi Noi, Mr. Le Dinh Kinh’s adopted daughter, made her final statement, it was short, but it made me respect and admire her so much. This long-suffering lady who has little education, who suffers great loss, has spoken the words that I know must have come from her very big heart and very clear mind… She is standing in court facing the accusations and waiting for her punishment in the coming days… She was very tough-minded and seemed always agitated throughout the past few days of the trial, and yet with her final statements, we can see how generous is her soul and how clear-minded is her vision.”
Commenting on the abrupt and early end of the trial, prominent democracy advocate Dr. Nguyen Quang A wrote on his Fb, Sept 11: A Nguyen Quang: What are they afraid of? The fact that police have illegally attacked Dong Tam?!
Who protects the lawyers?
BBC Viet, Sept 11 https://www.bbc.com/vietnamese/vietnam-54113722
Lawyers representing 29 villagers on trial for their role in a deadly land-rights clash in January at a commune near Hanoi were followed by strangers after leaving court on Thursday [10 Sept], shortly after police had seized one lawyer’s USB drive holding notes on the day’s proceedings. At the time lawyer Ngo Anh Tuan talked to RFA on 10 Sept, he said he and other defence lawyers were sheltering safely at his office, adding, “At the time, we were worried only that we would be stopped and attacked, so that they could take our laptop computers away from us.”
Asked by BBC Viet on Sept 10 if he was tailed and subject to a revenge attack “out of the blue,” what could he do, Mr.Tuan said he would just “have to put up with it.” Lawyer Dang Dinh Manh, on the other hand, said he received advice that he should bring this issue to the attention of international organisations and foreign embassies which are concerned about the Dong Tam affair so they are informed of the situation, this would hopefully cause those who want to threaten or intimidate [the lawyers] to take a step back. Mr. Manh himself had been victim of a kidnap back in 2018, when he was defending rights lawyer Mr. Nguyen Van Dai - who is currently living in political exile in Germany.
Also in 2018, the cars carrying him and 2 fellow lawyers who were defending those who protested against the Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security bills were shot at.
In 2015, Mr. Le Van Luan and a fellow lawyer were bashed and suffered from their injuries when they represented the family of a young man named Do Dang Du, who was bashed and died in custody.
Dong Tam case: Is it time for the Vietnamese government to conduct a second land reform?
Berlin-based Thoi Bao de, Sept 10 https://thoibao.de/blog/2020/09/10/dong-tam-case-is-it-time-for-the-vietnamese-government-to-conduct-second-land-reform/
BBC Viet, Sept 8 https://www.bbc.com/vietnamese/vietnam-54076413
Observing the ongoing first-instance hearing in which 29 land petitioners in Dong Tam commune were tried for “murders” and “oppose people who are carrying out public duties,” Vietnam-based senior economist Mr. Bui Kien Thanh said that this trial, despite the final harsh sentences, will not solve the cause of the problem.
The land dispute arises from deeper causes, the economist said, and the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) and its government, especially in the coming Party’s 13th National Congress envisaged to be held in Jan 2021, need to conduct a revolution regarding the reform of the laws on land ownership and return the land to Vietnamese people.
A crime scene re-enactment is required: Defence lawyer Mr. Le Van Luan
Defense lawyer Mr. Le Van Luan, on his Fb 13 Sept Những tình tiết cần điều tra thấu tỏ listed several issues that have yet to be clarified.
It is necessary to conduct a crime scene re-enactment to clarify the defendants’ action [causing the deaths of 3 police officers as alleged by the prosecutors]: How could the defendants use their feet to move a fuel-containing pot that was ablaze from the rooftop of defendant Mr. Le Dinh Chuc’s house to the rooftop of his neighbor Le Dinh Hoi’s house, while on a ladder?
That was why, at court, the prosecutors had changed this detail (as had been previously recorded in the indictment): defendants now moved a fuel-containing pot that was ablaze with a stick, not with their feet.
The pot – containing fuel as had been alleged – turned out having no trace of fuel after forensic examination.
Two policemen present at the time said 3 policemen had tripped when jumping over the hole and had fallen down the hole as a result. These two policemen said they didn’t see and couldn’t identify who were the person/persons who had poured the fuel down the hole [after the 3 policemen had fallen into the hole], if that did in fact happen.
Defendant Mr. Le Dinh Chuc said he only poured some fuel from a container to the lid of the container, then threw the fuel in the lid down the hole 3-4 times. With such a small quantity of fuel, it could cause burns but it could not burn the bodies of the 3 policemen to ashes.
An experiment needs to be conducted to see how much fuel is required to burn 3 bodies to ashes in a narrow and confined environment [of a deep 4m depth hole], and how long the blaze must be maintained to arrive at such outcome.
The forensic examination also concluded that another cause of death of the 3 policemen was the [inhalation] of poisonous gas CO/CO2.
The above details need to be investigated to get a clear answer.
Mr. Luan also informed that electronic evidence had been edited, altered, pointing out that spoliation of evidence is a serious offense. Defendants testified they had been beaten during their interrogations in the detention center. Interfering with witnesses, interfering with the processes of the law are criminal offenses, Mr. Luan points out, and recommends legal criminal proceedings against the perpetrators, to stop them causing further danger to society and harming the legal processes.
Various concerns about the trial (summarised)
Thoi Bao de Sept 12 https://www.facebook.com/thoibao.de/
Concern about a lack of impartiality
Defence lawyer Mr. Đặng Đình Mạnh, Voice of the People Sept 12 Đồng Tâm: Vấn đề thẩm quyền điều tra:
The attack on Dong Tam village on Jan 9, 2020 was within Hanoi’s area, so there was no dispute that Hanoi Police Investigation Bureau was the appropriate investigating authority.
Nevertheless, when a large number of troops who played a major and important role in the attack were members of Hanoi Police, and it was Hanoi Police that took on the investigation into the event, there was no guarantee that the investigation had been conducted in an impartial and objective manner.
Concern about the Dong Tam attack plan being classified as “top secret”
Fb of activist and former prisoner of conscience Mr. Nguyen Tien Trung Sept 12
Defense lawyers detected the existence of Attack Plan 419 A/KH-PV01-PV02-MP when they researched the case files, this was a ‘top secret’ plan but inadvertently mentioned by members of the police and included also inadvertently in the case files, refer VOA Viet report: https://www.voatiengviet.com/a/vu-dong-tam-luat-su-bao-chua-doi-cong-bo-ke-hoach-toi-mat-419a/5578165.html . Plaintiff lawyer Nguyen Hong Bach also said at court that the 3 deceased policemen ‘carried out their duties according to plan’ and ‘plan 419A/KH-PV01-PV02-MP was a top secret’, according to defence lawyer Le Van Hoa.
Thus, even though the authorities charged the defendants with ‘oppose officers who are carrying out public duties’, the ‘top secret’ excuse prevented them to explain the exact nature of these public duties when they attacked Dong Tam village.
If no one informed Dong Tam villagers that the 3,000 police came to their village in the early morning of 9 Jan 2020 to perform public duties, how could they know the attack was legal and constitutional?
If this ‘top secret’ excuse becomes a precedent, authorities can deploy the police to kill the citizens, then accuse the citizens of ”oppose officers who are carrying out public duties’. If anyone asks ‘what public duties’, authorities can simply answer ‘it’s top secret’, it cannot be revealed.
That means absolutely anyone can be killed by authorities, after which they can simply say because the slain citizens had ‘opposed officers who were carrying out public duties’.
This violates the constitution that has been drafted and approved by the Party, which has a clause stating the life of a citizen is protected by the law.
Transparency about what had occurred in Dong Tam on 9 Jan 2020 would bring justice not only to Dong Tam villagers but also to members of the police and the army. If any of them had to sacrifice their lives, it should be for the defence of the country’s sovereignty, or to protect the people, not because of some murky reasons during an attack on a village in the countryside of Vietnam.
Transparency about the death of Mr. Le Dinh Kinh, justice for Dong Tam villagers and transparency about the deaths of the 3 policemen during the attack are what we should all strive for. It’s not fair that these 3 policemen had to die because of some murky reasons, and the authorities took advantage of their deaths to concoct some offences to cause further injustice by giving the death sentence to innocent people.
Was the Dong Tam attack legal and constitutional?
Fb of defence lawyer Mr. Le Van Hoa 13 Sept https://www.facebook.com/levanhoa256
(Mr Fushihara is highly regarded by many Vietnamese lawyers)
The fact that the People’s Procuracy of Hanoi has changed the offence from ‘murder’ to ”oppose officers who are carrying out public duties’ for the majority of the defendants [in the Dong Tam affair] shows that the Prosecutors’ Office and the investigation bureau haven’t conducted a detailed and proper investigation into the case, as elements constituting the two offenses are fundamentally different.
This change in the type offense [for the defendants] should not have anything to do with ‘displaying clemency and humanity in the application of legal policies’ [as stated in court].
Regarding the ‘public duties’ issue: it’s necessary to assess the legality and the reasonability of the public duties that had been carried out [on 9 Jan 2020], if they were not exactly constitutional or reasonable, those who fought against those ‘public duties’ should be protected, or mitigating factors should apply to them.
Regarding the deaths suffered by [3 policemen]: [in defending the Dong Tam villagers,] it’s necessary to look at the doctrine of legitimate self-defence, if it was a case of excessive legitimate defence, mitigating factors should apply according to the law.
Slain villager leader Mr Kinh’s family under siege
Berlin-based Thoi Bao de, Sept 12 https://www.facebook.com/thoibao.de/
Thoi Bao de relayed the message from activist and supporter of Dong Tam villagers, Ms. Dang Bich Phuong: https://www.facebook.com/phuong.dangbich/posts/2788823627886089
Mr. Kinh’s relatives said, currently his family is under guard. [Those who guard them] blatantly said, no one can make contact with Mr. Kinh’s widow – Mrs. Du Thi Thanh. [I] heard that in each of the villages neighboring Dong Tam, authorities increased the number of civilian guards to 20 at each guard post, placing Dong Tam under siege.
Dong Tam villagers’ lawyers had to flee to safety
Fb of defending lawyer Mr Dang Dinh Manh, Sept 12 https://www.facebook.com/manhdang001
Berlin-based Thoi Bao de, Sept 12 https://www.facebook.com/thoibao.de/
Thoi Bao de wrote: ‘An amazing race. The security police played the dirty game and chase the Dong Tam lawyers.’
Thoi Bao de relayed a message by Fb Phuong Ngo
After being robbed of their USB, [the lawyers] are now subject to mental terrorism. At night [Sept 11], several policemen hired a room next to their room, then sneaked into their room to search their luggage. Mr. Manh and Mr. Mieng had been cared for by 6 members of security police then how could they escape. They had to flee [from Hanoi] to Soc Son or Tam Dao to rest and prepare mentally for the fight next week.’ [The last day of the trial will be Sept 14, where final sentencing will be announced.]
Mr. Manh wrote that he and his fellow lawyer Mr. Nguyen Van Mieng received offers of help from many people, known and unknown when they found themselves in trouble.
A message they received via messenger: ‘Please give me your address. I have two vehicles, with 7 seats. I can be your driver until your tasks are done and you reach safety.’
Mr. Manh wrote: “The author of the above message managed to have 3 cars escorting us from the hotel we were staying to the airport. When crossing Nhat Tan bridge, they increased the speed to 100km/hr, enough to leave the young men tasked with their secret missions behind.
Receiving so much protection, care, and generosity from the community made me wonder: We are protecting the citizens or it is the citizens who protect us?
Thanks to you all the [Samaritans], we don’t feel lonely in our journey in search of elusive [justice].
When I’m writing these words, we are already safe in our place.’
Dang Dinh Manh and Nguyen Van Mieng.”
Thoi Bao de relayed a message of thanks to the defence lawyers from Mrs. Nguyen Thi Duyen, wife of defendant Mr.Nguyen Dinh Uy – nephew of slain Mr Kinh:
“Right from the beginning, when I heard there were lawyers who would defend and protect our relatives, we were very surprised, we could not believe that there were lawyers who were willing to take on that dangerous task.
I was even more surprised when all the lawyers offered their help free of charge.
You deserve the titles Lawyers for the People, for the Truth.
I wish you safety! Many thanks to you all, for standing for the truth in the past few days.”
International community follows Dong Tam closely: lawyer form Ho Chi Minh City informed
Fb of Brotherhood for Democracy (BFD), Sept 12
BFD relayed a message from Linh An, a lawyer from HCMC: (summarised)
The attack on Dong Tam village on 9 Jan 2020 (the attack) by 3,000 members of law enforcement, killing Mr. Kinh, causing injuries to many others, villagers’ possession had been robbed, 29 Dong Tam villagers had been arrested [and currently on trial].
According to the defense lawyers, this was a planned attack, [named Attack Plan 419A*].
The Attack Plan reportedly was accepted by the Hanoi Mayor and endorsed by the Police Ministry, it didn’t go through the Justice Department or the Parliament Legislative Committee.
After which, a fake file was created about the deaths of 3 policemen, the cause of their deaths remains unknown until now.
Former Hanoi Mayor Mr. Nguyen Duc Chung is currently incarcerated for charges unrelated to the Dong Tam attack.
The legal community and the general community currently question the legal responsibility of the Vietnamese parliament and government in this affair.
Whether Plan 419A really existed or not, the murdering attack on Dong Tam violates Vietnam’s constitution and the law. No government bodies would dare endorse a plan to murder people, especially a plan to murder an elderly Party member simply because he had a land-related grievance.
Even if the attack happened spontaneously to ‘protect the building of a fence for Mieu Mon airport’ as initially stated by Police General Luong Tam Quang, this made the attack even more illegal, as this fence had been completed since 30 Dec 2019.
So why was there still the need to ‘protect the building of the fence’ on 9 Jan 2020?
Regarding the claim that 3 policemen had died by being burned to death in a hole: so far there has been no proof that they were among the list of personnel that had been approved to be legally present at Dong Tam village for the attack, and which government bodies had that list?
If the police units they had belonged to could not prove these men’s presence in Dong Tam on 9 Jan 202 was legal, and who gave them orders to climb on a rooftop from there they reportedly fell down a hole, then the several medals awarded to them for martyrdom [right after the event] must be canceled.
The Dong Tam case is the most grubby and twisted trial case in Vietnam’s history, as we are in the 21st century.
The international community is currently waiting for an explanation from Vietnam’s various government bodies about this case and is following this case very closely. They are waiting till the completion of the trial in the court of the first instance, before seeking for answers from related government bodies – lawyer An Linh wrote.
*Defence lawyers detected the existence of Attack Plan 419 A when they researched the case files, this was a ‘top secret’ plan but inadvertently mentioned by members of the police and included also inadvertently in the case files, refer VOA Viet report: https://www.voatiengviet.com/a/vu-dong-tam-luat-su-bao-chua-doi-cong-bo-ke-hoach-toi-mat-419a/5578165.html . Plaintiff lawyer Nguyen Hong Bach also said at court that the 3 deceased policemen “carried out their duties according to plan” and “plan 419A was a top-secret,” according to defense lawyer Le Van Hoa.
On 10 Sept, Day 4 of the trial, defense lawyers suggested to the Hanoi People’s Procuracy to publicize Plan 419A – classified as ‘top secret’, in order to verify the legality and authorities’ goals in deploying the police to Dong Tam village on 9 Jan 2020.
By making this plan publicly available, related parties and the public will be able to know clearly if the police force who were present in Dong Tam village on 9 Jan 2020 were carrying out public duties. If so, what were the nature of those public duties, did their duties include actions that might lead to fatalities.
By making this plan publicly available, related parties can find out clearly if the defendants had ‘opposed officers who were carrying out public duties’, this was the criminal offense they had been charged with – defense lawyers told VOA.
Call on the EU to request Dong Tam villagers’ trial to be halted
Voice of the People, Sept 11 https://baotiengdan.com/2020/09/11/khai-thac-hiep-dinh-thuong-mai-tu-do-the-he-moi-de-ho-tro-cac-bi-can-trong-vu-an-dong-tam/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=khai-thac-hiep-dinh-thuong-mai-tu-do-the-he-moi-de-ho-tro-cac-bi-can-trong-vu-an-dong-tam
In Germany, Dr. Duong Hong An, a member of the democracy advocacy group named Forum Vietnam 21, has sent a petition to President of the European Commission Ms. Ursula von der Leyen, and President of the European Parliament Mr. David Maria Sassoli.
The petition stated that: (noteworthy points)
Forum Vietnam 21 has high regard for the EVFTA which asserts that Vietnam-EU partnership is based on principles mentioned in the Partnership Cooperation Agreement (PCẠ), with respect for human rights listed among key principles.
It calls on the EU:
– to intervene to save the 29 Dong Tam villagers, victims of summary arrests after a bloody attack in Dong Tam village on 9 Jan 2020.
– to request Hanoi government to provide a transparent report on the Dong Tam massacre, to halt the trial of Dong Tam villagers, allowing them to be released on bail and reunite with their families.
– to demand Hanoi to abide by the commitments on human rights that Vietnam has pledged when signing the EVFTA.