Judge defends closed court hearing of Ha Giang headmaster

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The high-profile trial of a headmaster in the northern province of Ha Giang who stood accused of having sex with his students wrapped up on Thursday, in a rare closed court session. 

The presiding judge Mai Van Hung had limited members of the general public from attending the proceedings against the headmaster and two female students, who were implicated in the crimes.

Judge Hung told Thanh Nien that the court was meant to be closed, right from the beginning, in order to protect the minors involved in the scandal. He added that some court and prosecution officials had not abided by the ruling. 

Following the one-day trial, Hung sentenced Sam Duc Xuong, 54, to nine years in prison for having sex with underage students in exchange for higher grades.

Two of Xuong's students, Nguyen Thuy Hang and Nguyen Thi Thanh Thuy, both 20, received suspended sentences of 36 months and 30 months respectively after pleading guilty to procuring schoolgirls for Xuong. 

The case has attracted wide media coverage since it was exposed in 2009 and the involved students implicated a number of provincial officials.  

The decision to close the court to the public and place the procedings under tight security raised some questions among experts.

Lawyer Tran Dinh Trien was quoted by Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper as saying that the high-profile case should have been open to the public. He noted that both Hang and Thuy are now adults.

"Dozens of rape and prostitution cases are heard around the country every year, but none of them have gone through closed hearings," Trien said. He added that the closed proceedings may have stemmed from an effort to protect certain "individuals involved in underage sex."

Hang and Thuy had named 16 officials that they'd had sex with.

Presiding Judge Hung said police are still investigating this "black list."

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