Charges dropped against former chief inspector in Da Nang defamation case

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Former chief inspector of the Ministry of Public Security, Tran Van Thanh, has had previous verdicts and sentences passed against him in a high-profile defamation case annulled by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme People's Court in Da Nang on Friday dropped charges of "taking advantage of democratic freedom to infringe upon the interests of the state as well as the legal rights of organizations and citizen" that Thanh had previously been found guilty of.

However, the appeal of another defendant in the case, Da Nang resident Nguyen Phi Duy Linh, who had been sentenced to three years in prison, was rejected by the court.

The case also involved Duong Tien, Hanoi bureau chief of the Cong An Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh (HCMC police) newspaper and Dinh Cong Sat, a former police official in Da Nang.

On September 23, 2008, the Da Nang People's Court opened the first trial in the case. Thanh, Linh and Tien were accused of supplying documents to Sat that wrongly denounced some senior Da Nang officials between 2006 and 2007 with the aim of damaging their reputation ahead and during the parliamentary election.

The first trial was suspended because the judges felt there was insufficient evidence. It asked the city prosecutors' office to investigate the case again.

On August 6, 2009, the court opened the trial for the second time. Based on the results of additional probes, it sentenced Thanh to18 months on probation, Tien to 17 months and 5 days in prison, Sat to a year on probation and Linh to three year in prison.

In December 2009, the city court of appeals reduced the sentence to 12 months' probation against Thanh and retained the previous punishments against the rest.

Thanh and Linh appealed the verdict. During the two trials in 2009, Linh withdrew confessions he had made during investigation and said Thanh had not asked him to write a letter denouncing the Da Nang Party and government leadership. Sat also said he had not received any documents from Thanh.

On October 29, 2010, the Supreme Prosecutors' Office proposed that the verdict be annulled and the charges against Thanh dropped.

On July 19, 2011, the panel of judges at the Supreme People's Court annulled parts of the verdict involving Thanh and Linh, and asked the Supreme People's Court in Da Nang to reopen the trial against them.

In the latest trial, the court retained the verdict against Linh, but dropped charges against Thanh who was absent due to health problems.

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