Innocent Vietnamese demands apology, $1 million for decade in jail

By Thai Son, Thanh Nien News

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Nguyen Thanh Chan was released from prison last November and had his named cleared in January after serving ten years in jail after being wrongfully convicted of murder by Bac Giang Province court. PHOTO COURTESY OF BAC GIANG NEWSPAPER

Five months after his release from prison, an innocent man who served ten years for a wrongful murder conviction has demanded the supreme court provide him with compensation and an apology.
Lawyer Vu Thi Nga, deputy director of the law consultation center at the Vietnam Bar Federation, said her client Nguyen Thanh Chan filed his petition and related documents to the Supreme People’s Court in Hanoi last Thursday.
The 52-year-old resident of Bac Giang Province outside Hanoi was sentenced to life for the murder of a local woman. He was released after his wife spent a decade uncovering evidence that forced the real murderer, a neighbor, to give himself up.
His record was only officially cleared by a supreme court statement publicly read in his village in January.
Nga said Chan has asked for compensation for 3,699 days in jail and the 83 days he spent out of jail before the justice system officially cleared his name.
She did not reveal a number, but said according to the law on the government’s compensation responsibility, a day in jail is compensated by three days of minimum wages, which now range between VND1.9 million and VND2.7 million (US$90-128) per month.
Nga said her client's demand is much more than the VND1 billion ($47,430) amount reported by local media earlier.
Chan has demanded thousands of additional dollars for damages to his prestige and dignity, as well as the trauma caused to his family members.
“During my jail time, I was forced to plead guilty and subjected to corporal punishment, leaving severe impact on my physical health. My human dignity was trampled upon,” a part of the petition read.
His compensation for income damage could be worth at least VND21 billion (around $1 million) his lawyer has said.
Chan's wife, Nguyen Thi Chien, developed psychological problems during the ten years she spent fighting for her husband and grew too preoccupied with his case to care for his elderly mother and four children. Three of their children left school after finishing the ninth grade and have missed the opportunity to earn a proper living, according to Chan's petition.
He has also asked the court to publicly apology to him.
Prior to his imprisonment, Chan supported his family by driving a horse cart, brewing rice wine, milling rice, breeding pigs and running a small café.
In March, VnExpress reported that Chan only wanted VND1 billion in compensation, including the daily income he could have earned during his time in jail and the cost of Chien's tireless fight for his freedom.
Her medical fees alone totaled some VND60 million, though she owes local banks and relatives around VND500 million .
Chien traveled to different agencies, filed numerous appeals and conducted her own investigation that forced the real murderer to surrender after she recorded a conversation among his relatives.
The stress of her situation forced Chien to visit the National Psychiatric Hospital in Hanoi several times.
Chan’s children said seeing their father go to jail turned their lives upside down. Besides public hostility, they were also deprived of care as their mother was too busy fighting for justice.
They are still cooperating with investigators from the Ministry of Public Security who are looking into Chan's claims that police officers threatened him with death to force him to plead guilty.

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