Two of the seven people who were wrongfully detained and charged with murder in 2013 in the southern province of Soc Trang. Photo credit: VnExpress
Vietnam’s highest office of prosecutors on Tuesday ratified charges against two police officers and one prosecutor in the Mekong Delta for coercing seven suspects in a 2013 murder case into false confessions.
Dismissed officers Nguyen Hoang Quan, 38, and Trieu Tuan Hung, 34, of Soc Trang Province have been charged with “using torture” and could be jailed for up to seven years if convicted.
Pham Van Nui, a member of the province’s prosecution office, faces charges of “dereliction of responsibility, resulting in serious consequences,” punishable by jail terms of three to 12 years.
According to the indictment, Soc Trang police detained six men and one woman, all living in Tran De District, a few days after 44-year-old Ly Van Dung, a xe om (motorbike taxi) driver, was found dead with multiple stab wounds near a highway on July 14.
The men were investigated on charges of murder, while the woman was accused of harboring criminals.
During interrogations, the suspects denied the allegations, but Quan and Hung forced them to admit to the crime under duress, prosecutors said.
With the false confessions, police recommended the charges to the provincial prosecution office, which approved the proposal after being advised by Nui.
Prosecutors said Nui supervised the case, but failed to detect mistakes in an autopsy that did not give clear details about when and how the victim died.
He also did not directly interrogate the suspects, who all had alibis, thus failing to discover conflicts in their statements as well as those between their statements and evidence collected at the crime scene, according to the indictment.
Not long after the provincial prosecution office ratified the charges, a 13-year-old girl submitted herself to the police in November that same year, confessing that she and another girl, 14, had killed Dung in order to rob him.
The seven suspects were released last February and received compensations, VND70 million each, from Soc Trang prosecutors early this year.
A court sentenced the 14-year-old girl to 12 years in prison at a trial in August last year. It is Vietnam’s maximum punishment for murder by a person under 16.
The other avoided criminal charges for committing a crime before the age of 14 and was sent to a correctional institution.
According to the case file, after stabbing the driver to death, the girls, who were lovers, fled to Ho Chi Minh City.
The 14-year-old girl then began a relationship with another girl, prompting the other, out of jealousy, to go to police in the hopes that they would be sent to prison together.
It is one of a few cases of wrongful conviction which have been drawing a great deal of public attention in Vietnam recently.
Early this month Vietnam’s highest office of prosecutors introduced a draft of revised code of criminal procedure that seeks to give criminal suspects more rights during interrogation, including the right to remain silent.