Cops punished for violent interrogations

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Officers face dismissal and criminal charges for assaulting a woman and child

11-year-old Ngo Dinh Phat sustained serious bruises on his legs and buttocks after his aunt brought him to a Hue police station for stealing VND3.1 million.

A Thua Thien-Hue second lieutenant and two Khanh Hoa police officers could face dismissal and possible prosecution in Vietnam's latest pair of police brutality cases.

Investigators from the Supreme People's Procuracy (SPP), Vietnam's highest prosecutorial body, told Thanh Nien that they had wrapped up their investigation of officers Nguyen Dinh Quyet and Tran Ba Tuan, on Wednesday, in Nha Trang.

Quyet and Tuan will be charged, criminally, with "the use of corporal punishment" against 41-year-old housekeeper Tran Thi Lan while investigating a claim that she stole from her employers. An enquiry into the police officers' behavior was launched on April 27.

Quyet and Tuan arrested Lan on November 28, 2010. According to provincial investigators, the pair raided her rented house in Nha Trang based on a complaint from the family of Vo Ha Trang who accused the housekeeper of stealing property worth VND7 million (US$340) as well as $1,700 in cash.

On November 30, Lan was admitted to the Khanh Hoa General Hospital with multiple injuries on her body.

Her daughter, who wished to be known only as N., said poverty had forced her mother to work as a maid at Trang's house.

"On December 1, a policeman called me to say that my mother was being treated at the hospital. I rushed there to find many bruises on her body. My mother said the policemen beat her because she wouldn't admit that she had stolen the money," she said.

Lan's family lodged a complaint with local authorities about the police abuse. The SPP said they found evidence of Lan being beaten by Quyet and Tuan.

On March 21, the Nha Trang Town People's Court sentenced Lan to a year in jail for stealing. She was also ordered to pay her former employer VND35 million.

There was no information on whether the verdict against Lan will be appealed on the basis of confession obtained under duress.

In the other case, the Hue City PoliceDepartment's Disciplinary Committee said they would ask the provincial police chief to dismiss Second Lieutenant Tran Nguyen Hong Quang from the Thuy Xuan Ward Police Station for beating an 11-year-old boy on June 15.

The committee also recommended that Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Anh, deputy chief of police of Thuy Xuan Ward, be demoted for irresponsible management, according to Dang Ngoc Son, Hue's chief of police.

Around noon on June 15, fifth- grader Ngo Dinh Phat of Phuong Duc Primary School, came to the home of his aunt Ngo Thi Anh and allegedly stole VND3.1 million. Anh, who suspected Phat was the culprit, interrogated him and found he'd bought a cell phone with the money. She also retrieved the remaining VND1.7 million from the boy. Anh took the boy to the police station after failing to reclaim the money from the phone shop.

At around 5 p.m. the same day, police called Phat's father, Ngo Dinh Chung, to take him home. Chung found many bruises on Phat's body and took him to the hospital.

The father said Phat returned home from the hospital on June 19 and the family didn't plan to file a lawsuit against the police because the station has handled the misconduct in a responsible way. Police brass have since extended their apologies and given compensation for his treatment.

Second Lieutenant Quang was suspended on Tuesday.

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