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Eviction dispute hero heads to court

Smallholder goes on trial with bishops' backing

Eviction dispute hero heads to court
Peter Doan Van Vuon reporter, Hanoi

April 2, 2013

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Peter Doan Van Vuon and five of his relatives go to trial today in Hai Phong city, accused of injuring six policemen and soldiers with homemade guns and explosives during an eviction dispute.

In January 2012, Vuo resisted when 100 police officers and soldiers reportedly attempted to forcibly evict him and his family from their farm and home. Vuon and his three brothers aged between 39 and 56 have been detained since the incident. They are charged with attempted murder, while his wife and his sister-in-law face charges of fighting policemen and soldiers.

“They have to be released since they did not commit murder or a crime against policemen and soldiers as charged by the government,” said a petition signed by Bishop Paul Nguyen Thai Hop of Vinh, president of the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace, and Bishop Joseph Vu Van Thien of Hai Phong. “Their correct self-defense does not violate the law."

In the petition, submitted to the court on Friday, the bishops said Vuon and his relatives used homemade weapons to “protect their own legal interests and properly acted in self-defense against local authorities making unlawful decisions.”

The trial is expected to last until April 5. 

Five district officials face charges of destruction of citizens’ property in the case. They allegedly ordered policemen and soldiers to level Vuon’s farm and demolished his two-storey home. That trial will begin April 8. 

Last year Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said the authorities broke the law by withdrawing land allocated to Vuon several years ago. The district authorities “were completely wrong about land allocation, the terms of land use, and the eviction of Vuon by force,” Dung said.

Local authorities allocated 40 hectares of land to Vuon to use for a 14-year period, but according to land laws, the period should have been 20 years.

The incident has made Vuon a hero to many. Thousands of people attended a special Mass on Sunday at Thai Ha Church in Hanoi to pray for Vuon and his relatives to be tried fairly. They hung banners saying, "Justice and truth for Doan Van Vuon," and “Private ownership of the land must be respected."

Related report

PM to try to resolve eviction dispute

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