Vietnam upholds farmers' death penalty over land clash

Three police were killed during a bloody confrontation between authorities and farmers defending their land rights

UCA News reporter, Hanoi

Updated: March 11, 2021 02:30 AM GMT

Bui Thi Noi waves at people before entering court on March 8. (Photo courtesy of Hong Lys/Facebook)

A court in Hanoi has rejected the appeals of two brothers sentenced to death for their part in a bloody confrontation with police over land rights.

The violent clash occurred in January 2020 at Dong Tam Commune, a small rice-farming community next to Mieu Mon military air base, when authorities tried to build a wall that the villagers said encroached on their land.

After a two-day hearing, the People's High Court on March 9 upheld the death sentences of brothers Le Dinh Cong and Le Dinh Chuc for their roles in the killings of three police officers.

The court also refused to reduce the heavy jail sentences of four other defendants, including Le Dinh Doanh, Cong's 33-year-old son, who had been given a life sentence.

Bui Viet Hieu, 78, and Nguyen Quoc Tien, 41, were sentenced to 16 and 13 years in jail respectively for murder. Bui Thi Noi, 63, received a six-year sentence for fighting against personnel on duty.

State-run VnExpress news site reported that the judge said the defendants ignored the law, showing no respect for the lives of security personnel, when they deliberately used gas to burn the three officers to death. The judge said the sentences imposed by the lower court were well founded.

Last September, a local lower court had convicted the six of helping to mastermind resistance against the police and causing severe consequences in a lethal land clash between tens of farmers and thousands of police at Dong Tam Commune on the outskirts of Hanoi.

Cong, 57, and his brother Chuc, 41, are sons of Le Dinh Kinh, a Communist Party member in his 80s who was shot dead in his bedroom by police during the clash.  

Catholic lawyer Le Quoc Quan, who has closely followed the case, said it was not reasonable that a high-profile criminal case, which affects many people's lives, was settled within two days.

Quan, a rights activist, said the people are unhappy with a corrupt judiciary governed by an authoritarian regime. The judges act according to secretly planned orders from party leaders, he said.

Justice is just a complete farce and trials are dark comedies that these 'masterminds' use to further their aims as soon as possible, he said.

The lawyer said those who ordered the attack on the commune should have been brought to trial. They will be judged properly by history.

He said it is terrible that the justice system tricked Cong into accepting his crime. Cong had lodged appeals against his unfair conviction but was later deceived into appealing for his sentence to be reduced.

All of us naively hope they [the judges] commute the sentences, he said.

Some 14 lawyers volunteered to represent the defendants at the trial, where they were banned from talking with their clients.

Before the trial, they asked government authorities to deal with unclear questions including legal proceedings.

They asked police to reinvestigate the land clash, the origin of the disputed land, local authorities' negotiations with villagers, plans of Hanoi police deployment to protect the military air base, the deaths of Kinh and the three police officers, and serious wounds on the bodies of Chuc, Hieu and Noi.

Lawyers said Noi asked the judges five times: Does the party kill its members?  She got no answer.

They said Noi also told the judges that they should look at the truth and honestly help me and other people.

Many people described her words as a hard slap in the face of the judges.

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