Newspaper calls for fresh probe into journalist's murder

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A Vietnamese newspaper has asked the nation's supreme court, prosecutors and police to launch fresh investigations into the murder of one of its employees early this year, a crime allegedly committed by his wife.

Do Danh Phuong, editor-in-chief of the Nguoi Lao Dong (Laborer) newspaper, made the request as a court in the Mekong Delta province of Long An prepares to open a trial of the murder of Le Hoang Hung, a 51-year-old journalist who worked for Nguoi Lao Dong.

The newspaper suspects that Hung's wife is not the only culprit and it wants others involved not to get away scot-free, Phuong said in an interview with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.

The Long An provincial prosecution agency had earlier said in its indictment that Tran Thuy Lieu, the 40-year-old wife of Hung, will stand trial this month for burning her husband to death.

The Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper wants fresh investigations into the case because there are many holes in the indictment, Phuong said in the note sent to the agencies.

According to the indictment, due to personal conflicts, Lieu set her husband on fire on January 19 as he slept in his working room on the first floor of their house in Long An's Tan An Town.

When Hung cried out for help, Lieu and her family extinguished the fire and rushed him to the hospital. The husband died 10 days later from severe burns.

Prosecutors said Lieu tried to make it look like someone had broken into their house with a rope and conducted the crime.

On February 20, Lieu turned herself in to police, saying that she had killed Hung because he beat her and accused her of having an affair.

Her confession shocked the public because it came after Lieu had steadfastly denied all accusations made by local media about her gambling debts and an alleged affair with Nguyen Van Tam, former chief of the provincial Market Management Team No. 5.

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Tam was dismissed from his post on August 8 for gambling in Cambodia and his connection with Lieu. Police once said that he had given Lieu advice on how to mislead investigations.

Nguoi Lao Dong claimed that Hung's testimony when he was alive was not included in the case's records, which it said was a "big mistake" made by the prosecution agency.

According to the newspaper, local police had confirmed that Tam had called and sent text messages to Lieu many times before and after Hung was killed, but the indictment did not mention these details.

The newspaper claimed that investigators' explanation of the murder scenario was unconvincing, noting that they had the crime scene re-enacted during daytime in good weather conditions, while the murder happened at night with scant lighting.

The testimonies of Lieu, witnesses and others involved are contradictory and not consistent, but were not yet verified by prosecutors, the newspaper said.

For example, Lieu once said she was beaten by Hung and did not tell anyone about the beating. Another time, she said she usually chatted with Tam about her family affairs and received his sympathy and ended up by having an affair with him.

Nhung, Hung and Lieu's first daughter, once told police her parents rarely fought but lately she has changed her testimony, saying that Hung and Lieu were engaged in quarrels a month before the murder.

The daughter also said that the quarrels had erupted after Hung had rejected his wife's suggestion that they sell their house to repay Lieu's debts.

In the interview with Tuoi Tre, Phuong (Nguoi Lao Dong's editor-in-chief) said he suspected that Lieu and witnesses changed their testimonies with an aim to prove that Lieu is the only culprit in the murder.

"Notably, there are two witnesses who left their hometowns after declaring with police," Phuong said.

"After our newspaper published their testimonies, they called us saying that they would be taken revenge because of the articles."

Phuong reiterated that Hung was a good reporter and his articles had exposed many wrongdoings of local officials.

"If they conclude that this is just a wife-killed-husband case, it is too simple," he said.

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