Hai Phong officials tried for illegal land eviction

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A court in the northern city of Hai Phong began Monday the trial of five local officials involved in a high-profile illegal land eviction case which left farmers jailed for attempted murder several days ago.

The five officials were accused of damaging property belonging to the family of Doan Van Vuon, a 53-year-old farmer, during a violent eviction in January last year.

Nguyen Van Khanh, 52, former vice chairman of Tien Lang District People's Committee, and Pham Xuan Hoa, 58, former chief of the committee's Natural Resources and Environment Office, were tried on charges of "damaging property."

Le Thanh Liem, 50, former chairman of Tien Lang District's Vinh Quang Commune, and Pham Dang Hoan, 53, former Party chief of the commune, face the same charge.

Le Van Hien, 56, former chairman of Tien Lang District People's Committee, stood trial for "irresponsibility causing serious consequences" under the Criminal Code.

According to prosecutors, on January 5, 2012, Khanh directly instructed 100 police officers and soldiers to evict Vuon from 19 hectares (47 acres) of swampland leased out to him in 1993 for 14 years in Vinh Quang Commune.

The officers damaged the house, some tents erected near a fish pond and other property belonging to Vuon's family.

Hoa, Liem and Hoan had helped Khanh perform the land eviction, according to prosecutors.

Property damage was estimated at more than VND295 million (US$14,100).

Hien was charged for letting his subordinates illegally damage Vuon's properties.

Last Friday, Vuon and his younger brother Doan Van Quy were sentenced to five years in prison each for attempted murder, after they used weapons to resist the land eviction.

Another brother of Vuon, Doan Van Sinh, and Sinh's son, Doan Van Ve, received jail terms of three and half years and two years respectively for the same count.

Vuon's wife Nguyen Thi Thuong got a suspended sentence of 15 months for opposing government officials on duty.

Pham Thi Bau, Quy's wife, was convicted of the same charge as Thuong, and also received a suspended sentence of one and half years.

Vuon, who turned an area of coastal swampland into seafood farms in Vinh Quang Commune, is said to have "poured much blood and sweat and all the savings of his family" to develop the land.

Prior to the eviction, after mediation by a judge, Vuon and his family were led to believe that he would be allowed to continue working on his land in return for withdrawing his lawsuit.

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