Court upholds verdicts against elephant attackers

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An appeals court in central Vietnam on Wednesday upheld verdicts against two men who pleaded guilty to illegally cutting an elephant's tail and stealing another's tail hairs last year.


Many people in the country's Central Highlands believe that hairs from the pachyderms' tails bring good luck in love and business.


Pham Van Huy, 32, and Le Viet Dung, 35, will have to serve jail terms of three years each as decided by the Lak District court at the first trial on March 15.  


However, Dam Van Noi, who was also involved in the case, had his imprisonment sentence decreased from two years to one and half years by the appeals court of Dak Lak Province.


According to the indictment, on Jan 3 last year Huy and Noi cut the tail of the elephant belonging to Dang Van Long of Lak District, and sold it for VND20 million (US$971).


On July 8, Huy together with Dung and Y Bia H'Wing, who got a jail terms of 15 months and didn't submit an appeal, pulled out 200 tail hairs from the elephant of Y Per Eung, also in Lak District, and sold them for VND6 million ($291).


At the first trial Huy and Noi were  also ordered to pay Long VND35 million ($1,700) in compensation.


Long was cited by the Tien Phong newspaper that the punishment wasn't strong enough to deter people from attacking the dwindling elephant population in the province.


Head judge Le Thi Vinh of the appeals court said the board of judges had consdiered the issue well before deciding the punishment for them under theft charges.


The case is unprecedented and the Criminal Code doesn't clearly regulate punishments for such acts, she said.


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