Cop gets 9 months for brutality

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Nguyen Trong Hieu (L), 27, a former police officer in Khanh Hoa Province's Dien Phu Commune, who has been sentenced to nine months in prison for assaulting Huynh Tan Nam (R), 21. Photo by Nguyen Chung 

A court in the central province of Khanh Hoa has sentenced a former local police officer to nine months in prison for assaulting and severely injuring a man who did not wear helmet when driving.

The Nha Trang Town People's Court handed the sentence to Nguyen Trong Hieu, 27, of the Dien Phu Commune police department on Monday morning.

He was convicted of "injuring others while performing duty" after proceedings on September 11 and 12.

According to the indictment, on the evening of April 24, 2010, sergeant-major Vu Van Duy, a Dien Khanh District traffic officer, was driving his police motorbike with Hieu on the back in Dien Phu for a patrol.

They saw and gave chase to Huynh Tan Nam, 21, who was driving a motorbike without a helmet, for more than two kilometers.

When they caught up with Nam in Nha Trang's Vinh Phuong Commune, Hieu beat him in the nape with a baton, making him lose control of the bike and fall into the street. The incident left Nam severely injured.

During the hearings, Hieu said he blew his whistle and waved the baton to order Nam to stop but did not beat him with the baton.

He said Nam drove very fast and carelessly, and while he turned back to look at the officers, he lost control and fell.

Duy said Nam was driving very fast, and may have hit something in the street and fell, adding that he did not ever catch up with Nam or surpass him.

He claimed they intended to bring Nam to the hospital but had to leave the scene when several locals came and screamed at them.

Duy said the locals threw stones at the police officers and they retreated to the Dien Khanh police station.

But Nam and seven eyewitnesses insisted that the officers had caught up with and blocked Nam's motorbike and that Hieu beat him on the nape with the baton.

Huynh Tien Hung, a witness, said he also saw two officers hit Nam with the baton. He said they also kicked Nam as he was lying unconscious.

He said he asked the officers to stop and help the victim, but they drove away instead.

The witnesses rejected the officers' claims that locals threw stones at them, adding that the police left when only two or three locals had approached the scene.

Nha Trang prosecutors also presented the officers' reports on the incidents to the court. The reports were filed on April 24, 2010, and they did not mention being attacked by locals.

Prosecutors said Nam's wrongdoings were only eligible for "administrative" penalties, and that he did not harm society, so the chase was not necessary, as it could cause panic and street accidents.

The panel of judges agreed and said the officers had other ways they could have handled the incident.

They said the testimonies of the victim and witnesses fit investigation files, while those of Hieu and Duy did not and were "unrealistic" because Nam could not drive so fast (they said he went over 80km per hour) on a small and crowded road; and it was impossible for a 250cc police motorbike to fail to catch up with the 100cc motorbike Nam was driving.

They decided that they had enough evidence to convict Hieu.

They demanded that the Dien Phu police department, where Hieu used to work, pay a compensation of approximately VND70.8 million (US$3,356) to Nam.

But they said they did not have enough evidence to convict Duy. They said he should only be reprimanded by his office for failing to protect the scene and rescue the victim as he was supposed to do.

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