Parliamentary body could look into controversial verdict

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The National Assembly's Justice Committee will review a trial that might land a Labor Hero in jail if an appeal fails to quell controversy and errors are apparent in the decision.

If the judges of People's Supreme Court and the head of People's Supreme Procuracy reject the appeal submitted by Tran Ngoc Suong and the public continue to express dissatisfaction and questions still remain about the hearing, the NA agency may step in, the Vietnamnet newswire quoted the committee's chairwoman Le Thi Thu Ba as saying.

Suong, former director of state-run Song Hau Farm in the Mekong Delta's Can Tho Province, was sentenced in August to eight years in jail for running a slush fund, instructing her subordinates to embezzle more than VND9.1 billion ($510,000) for the off-the-book fund during the seven years she held the position.

The woman, who was named a Labor Hero by the government in 2000, was also ordered to pay back VND4.3 billion (US$240,500) to the government by the city's People's Court.

Suong lodged an appeal against the verdict, saying it was unlawful and unjust, but an appeals court last week upheld the decision.

Her lawyer, Nguyen Truong Thanh, on Sunday told Tuoi Tre newspaper that Suong had lodged an appeal to the two supreme justice agencies and asked permission for delaying serving the jail sentence because of poor health conditions.

According to Vietnamnet, the Standing Committee of the Central Committee of Vietnam Fatherland Front has already asked the two agencies and the Ministry of Public Security to reconsider the verdict.

Former vice president Nguyen Thi Binh has called the prison sentence 60-year-old Suong unjust, adding that the slush fund was actually a welfare fund for the collective.

The Tuoi Tre newspaper Saturday said 110 members from one of Vietnam's most successful collective farms, meanwhile, wrote to the Party Unit in Can Tho City expressing their wishes to serve jail time in place of Suong, who was honored at the International Federation of Business & Professional Women's Women Inspire Awards in 2002.

On the other hand, some people have protested Suong's sentence as being too lenient.

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