Court retains nine-year sentence for ex-school principal in underage sex scandal

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Vietnam's supreme court on Tuesday  confirmed the nine-year jail term handed down by a lower court to a former school principal who was found guilty of having sex with his underage students.

Sam Duc Xuong, the 54-year-old former principal of Viet Lam High School in the northern province of Ha Giang, is said to have paid to have had sex with several students, six of whom were aged below 18, between July 2008 and August 2009.

He also forced his students to have sex with him in exchange for high marks, the judges of the Supreme People's Court said.

The closed court session, which lasted three hours, rejected Xuong's claims of innocence that he had not paid to have sex with his students.

His lawyers, Nguyen Dinh Xuan and Dinh The Hung, argued that investigators had seriously violated criminal procedures such as making changes in the case file and forcing confessions from the defendants.

According to the judges, his acts went counter to moral values and badly affected social order.

Xuong filed an appeal late last March after Ha Giang Province People's Court sentenced him to nine years' imprisonment on March 10.

At that time, Nguyen Thi Toan, Xuong's wife, believed the sentence handed down by the provincial court was "unfair" because Xuong was just one of several high-profile officials who have been accused of sleeping with female students by local parents.

Toan said Xuong should not be the only one to be punished.

The court also handed down suspended sentences of 36 months and 30 months respectively to two of his students, Nguyen Thuy Hang and Nguyen Thi Thanh Thuy, both 20, for procuring schoolgirls for Xuong.

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The two girls themselves had sex with Xuong.

Ha Giang police launched an investigation into the case after some parents reported that Xuong had forced their daughters to have sex with him in September 2009.

The case became even more controversial when the students implicated a number of provincial officials who they said paid to have sex with them.  

However, the provincial prosecution agency said they could not collect enough evidence to press charges against the officials and others named by the students.

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