Man arrested again after exoneration on rape, murder charges

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A man who's appeal trial acquitted him of raping and murdering a girl after being sentenced to death has been arrested again for a new investigation into the same crime.

A source told Thanh Nien Friday that police in the southern province of Binh Phuoc had taken Le Ba Mai, 30, into custody under a decision approved by the People's Supreme Court.

The decision, issued on May 15, said the custody was necessary for "securing an appeal trial and verdict execution," without stating how long the detention will last.

The new arrest came nearly one year after provincial prosecutors filed an appeal that again charged Mai with murdering and raping 11-year-old Thi Ut in November 2004, and called for a new trial after Mai was acquitted in June last year.

On May 24 last year the Binh Phuoc Province's People's Court declared that Mai was not guilty, saying that there was insufficient evidence to charge Mai with the crime.

It also found conflicts in the testimonies of the only witness, Ut's younger sister Thi Hang, as well as in Mai's statements, including his so-called confession.

Critical mistakes were also made in both legal and investigative procedures, court officials said at that time.

The Binh Phuoc People's Court held the trial after the People's Supreme Court ordered a fresh investigation into the case in February 2007.

The Supreme Court then approved an appeal by the People's Supreme Procuracy, the country's highest prosecutors' office, annulling the death penalty that Mai received at the two trials held in March and August 2005.

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According to the original indictment, in November 12, 2004, Mai, who was working for a farm, saw Ut and Hang picking cassava in a garden.

Mai persuaded Ut to go with him on his bike to a jackfruit garden nearby, raped her, and strangled her to death with her pants. Five days later, he was arrested and gave a full confession to the police, the indictment said.

However, Mai and his family maintained his innocence, claiming that his confession was coerced by the police. They submitted several letters to related agencies calling for a retrial.

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