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Vietnamese farmer commits suicide in court building

Man convicted of causing the death of his friend had complained that he was a victim but became a defendant

Vietnamese farmer commits suicide in court building

A photo of Luong Huu Phuoc in 2019 from his Facebook account. He killed himself on May 29 after complaining he had been wrongly convicted.

Published: June 01, 2020 07:03 AM GMT

Updated: June 01, 2020 07:15 AM GMT

The public in Vietnam have voiced outrage at the judiciary after a defendant killed himself in a court building over what he felt was an unfair conviction in a southern province.

On the morning of May 29, the People’s Court of Binh Phuoc province dismissed the appeal of Luong Huu Phuoc, who had been convicted of violating road regulations and causing the death of his friend Tran Huu Quy. The court upheld his three-year jail sentence.

That afternoon, Phuoc, 55, returned to the provincial court in Dong Xoai City and jumped from the building’s second floor. He left his sandals and a bottle containing insecticide at the scene.

Phuoc, who was out on bail, had posted a message on his Facebook page that said: “If my death awakens Binh Phuoc provincial judiciary, it is a very deserving cause.”   

At a May 30 news conference, Judge Le Hong Hanh, who presided at the appeals court, said the judging panel carefully examined the case documents and gave an impartial decision based on evidence since the case was complicated and the victim was constantly complaining.

Indictments said that on Jan. 15, 2017, Quy invited Phuoc to go to a karaoke bar after they had drinks at a friend’s house. Quy refused to wear a helmet after Phuoc took him on his motorbike to Quy’s house to collect the helmet. When Phuoc did a U-turn, they crashed into another motorbike ridden by Lam Tuoi, who was drunk and did not have a driver’s license. His relative was seated on the back of the bike.

The accident injured Phuoc and Quy died two days later while Tuoi and his relative suffered no injuries.  

Judge Hanh said Tuoi was fined for drink-driving and failing to have a driver’s license. He was not prosecuted for the deadly accident since he rode in the correct lane, although police did not record how fast he was going when he hit Phuoc’s motorbike.

She said Phuoc failed to survey the surroundings while he did the U-turn and his error directly caused Quy’s death.

Phuoc had said he did not trust the alcohol level of 0.69mg per litre of breath given by police as a hospital report on his injuries showed no alcohol in his blood after he was hospitalized. He also accused Tuoi of exceeding the speed on that street.

“I am a victim but became a defendant. That’s injustice,” Phuoc said.

Phuoc, who said his family moved to Dong Xoai City from Long An province after his daughter was killed, called on local lawyers and journalists to protect him as he had run out of money. Before the accident, he was evicted from his farm by authorities and was not given any compensation.   

Phuoc’s lawyer Luong Vinh Tuyen said there were many serious shortcomings in examining the accident scene and ignoring Tuoi’s speed and witness testimony that Tuoi turned his head to talk to his relative before hitting Phuoc’s motorbike. Tuoi admitted to having seen Phuoc’s bike 50 meters away.

Tuyen said Tuoi was driving so fast that the front wheel of his bike was deformed after the crash. “Tuoi, not Phuoc, should be prosecuted for the deadly accident,” the lawyer said on Facebook.

In 2015, Vo Chanh, a defendant involved in a land dispute with another man, killed himself five days after the province’s appeals court upheld a previous decision that failed to satisfy him.

Lawyer Dang Dinh Manh said that a judiciary in which a citizen has to sacrifice his life to defend himself is an invalid one.

Manh said Phuoc’s last words revealed that he did not seek justice for himself but that he wished to draw attention to the injustice and insensitivity of the judiciary.

Dissident lawyer Le Cong Dinh said courts in Vietnam are a political tool of the ruling party, not an independent judiciary as stipulated by the constitution. “The judiciary smells of money and corpses,” he said.

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