HCMC journalist association seeks reduced sentence for sting reporter

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The Ho Chi Minh City Journalists Association has called on the HCMC People's Court to commute the four-year sentence given to a journalist for bribery for exposing corruption by traffic police.

The association said in a petition Wednesday that Nguyen Van Khuong, 39, known by his pseudonym Hoang Khuong, had merely committed a professional mistake while performing a task assigned by his newspaper, Tuoi Tre (Youth).

In the last decaded he has managed to expose wrongdoings by traffic police, thus improving road safety, it said. He has also been fair in praising the good things done by the police, it pointed out.

The association urged prosecutors to carefully and objectively review the evidence provided by Tuoi Tre to show that Khuong had just made a professional mistake.

Khuong was sentenced to four years on September 7 by the court.

The journalist himself maintained that the bribes were paid as part of an undercover investigation into corruption in the city traffic police department.

He had bribed Huynh Minh Duc, 36, a sacked Binh Thanh District traffic police officer, to get back a motorbike seized from an illegal street racer.

Duc was sentenced to five years for accepting a bribe of VND3 million (US$143) from Tran Anh Tuan, the owner of a tractor trailer involved in an accident, besides VND15 million ($718) from Khuong.

Others involved in the bribery got up to five years.

Duc was arrested last November after Khuong's expose in Tuoi Tre.

Khuong was arrested two months later.

He has insisted it was a normal sting operation to gather evidence for his investigation, but the prosecutors determined that his acts were for personal benefit.

Khuong told the court that even if he had committed a wrongdoing it was professional in nature and did not warrant criminal punishment.

On Thursday he appealed to the Supreme People's Court to acquit him.

Two of the others have also appealed.

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