Death sentences and life imprisonment for the villagers of Dong Tam

Judges issue harsh sentences in land dispute that resulted in the death of an elderly man and three policemen. The death penalty imposed on the victim's two children, life imprisonment for the nephew. The court rejects the request to have local and national leaders of the Communist Party testify. Vietnamese activist: The government that wants to "impose its will" at the price of "atrocities".


Hanoi (AsiaNews) - Two death sentences, a life sentence and other prison sentences ranging from 16 years in prison to 15 months of probation. This is the sentence handed down yesterday by a Vietnamese court, in the context of a trial against 29 inhabitants of the village of Dong Tam (less than 40 km south of Hanoi), ended up in the bar for a dispute over the land with a violent drift. The verdict had been expected, as confirmed by a family member interviewed by Radio Free Asia (RFA) who comments: "I had prepared myself for the worst".

The court handed down the death penalty to the brothers Le Dinh Chuc and Le Dinh Cong, charged with murder for the death of three policemen. Le Dinh Doanh, son of Le Dinh Cong, will have to serve a life sentence while Bui Viet Hieu received a sentence of 16 years in prison; two other defendants, Nguyen Quoc Tien and Nguyen Van Tuyen, were given a sentence of 12 and 13 years each. Still others from five to six years or suspended sentence and probation; of the 29 defendants, at least 13 were found innocent.

On 9 January at least 3,000 policemen carried out a raid on the village, whose land has been seized  to build a military airport and for building speculations. In the clash between the locals and the police, in addition to the three policemen, the village elder, Le Dinh Kinh, was killed - shot by the agents. The authorities, in response, accused the 84-year-old son Le Dinh Chuc and his grandsons Le Dinh Doanh and Le Dinh Uy for the murder. Along with them, 27 other local people are accused of complicity in the murder.

The president of the court Truong Viet Toan rejected the defence lawyers' request to have the president of the Hanoi section of the Communist Party, Nguyen Duc Chung, in prison for corruption in a different proceeding, and representatives of the Ministry of Defense testify. Sources inside the trial reveal that the widow of the village elder Du Thi Thanh, mother of the two death row inmates, was also unable to appear in court as a witness.

Interviewed by RFA, the activist and dissident Nguyen Quang A, based in Hanoi, attacked the Communist Party calling it "deaf and blind" to demands for justice. "The Vietnamese government - he added - only wants to impose its will, at the price of atrocities and inhuman acts against its own people". Phil Robertson, deputy director for Asia of Human Rights Watch, is also not surprised by the heavy verdict: "The rulers of Vietnam - he says in a statement - do everything to show their most ferocious face against the villagers of Dong Tam, because they fear that the challenge of this community could be contagious”.

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