Defendants in blue at court in Hanoi on Sept. 14. (Screengrab from video clip)
A court in Hanoi has sentenced two brothers to death and given 27 others prison terms or probation for their involvement in a notorious land dispute that led to the deaths of three policemen.
State-run Thanh Nien newspaper reported that on Sept. 14, seven days after a tightly guarded trial began, the People’s Court of Hanoi had sentenced six defendants for murdering three policemen.
Le Dinh Cong, 56, and his brother Le Dinh Chuc, 40, were handed the death penalty. Both were charged with helping mastermind resistance against the police and causing severe consequences in a lethal land clash between farmers and thousands of police at Dong Tam Commune on the outskirts of Hanoi on Jan. 9.
The two defendants are sons of Le Dinh Kinh, 84, a village leader and retired local official who was shot dead in his bedroom during the police raid on the small rice-farming community next to a military air base where authorities had attempted to build a wall that the villagers said encroached on their land.
The newspaper said Cong’s son Le Dinh Doanh, 32, was given a life sentence for throwing bricks and petrol bombs at forces and setting fire to the three policemen.
Bui Viet Hieu, 77, Nguyen Quoc Tien, 40, and Nguyen Van Tuyen, 46, were sentenced to serve jail terms of 16, 13 and 12 years respectively.
The court also sentenced 23 other defendants for resisting law enforcement. Nine defendants aged 62-27 received punishments ranging from 3-6 years in prison, while the rest got probation.
The judge ruled that the case had caused a great loss of police officers and public concerns, so the defendants had to be punished severely as a warning by the government against resisting seizures of private land.
Facebooker Tuan Nguyen said the sentences fully showed the authoritarian regime’s "horrible and inhuman crimes."
Some priests said the innocent defendants were unfairly given harsh sentences and called on all people to pray for them and show solidarity in their painful time.
On the night after the trial, many people offered flowers, fruits, candles and incense on Kinh’s tomb while many cried for his tragic death.
Activists said the police raid and the unexplained circumstances around Kinh’s death had caused huge public controversy. Land disputes are common in Vietnam but rarely escalate into such conflict.
Du Thi Thanh, Kinh’s wife, asked the government to examine the scene where three policemen were allegedly burned to death at her house’s well on Jan. 9.
“I affirm that no one was burned to death there,” Thanh said in a video clip.
She said the defendants are innocent and asked the government to prosecute police officers for breaking into her house at night and killing Kinh in his bedroom.