Vietnam charges cops for torturing suspect to death in nationwide crackdown on police brutality

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Five former police officers in Phu Yen Province stand at an appeal trial July 9, 2014 as prosecutors called for harsher punishment on their fatal beating of a theft suspect in May 2012. Photo: Duc Huy Five former police officers in Phu Yen Province stand at an appeal trial July 9, 2014 as prosecutors called for harsher punishment on their fatal beating of a theft suspect in May 2012. Photo: Duc Huy

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Vietnam’s top prosecutors have charged two police officers in the Mekong Delta’s Dong Thap Province for beating a suspect to death in custody.
The Supreme People’s Procuracy, which is the country’s highest prosecution unit, has submitted the indictment to the provincial court, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reported Monday.
Huynh Ngoc Tong, 39, and Pham Xuan Binh, 29 are said to have beaten and kicked a suspected thief, Nguyen Tuan Thanh, to death in an attempt to extract a confession out of him, the paper said.
Thanh, then 26, was arrested on November 16, 2012, and by the time he was put into a holding cell at midnight, many injuries had been spotted on his body.
He was released the next morning and collapsed at noon. His family rushed him to hospital where doctors pronounced him dead on arrival.
His cause of death was determined to be respiratory decline brought on by external blows to vulnerable parts of his body.
Binh later admitted to having punched and kicked Thanh’s face, thighs and buttocks after he insisted upon his innocence.
Investigators say Tong was also involved.
Stories of suspects dying in police custody have become a regular occurrence in Vietnam and police brutality has factored into a number of those cases.
In one of the latest cases, a police officer in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak was arrested last month after a suspected thief died of cerebral trauma in his custody.
The government in Phu Yen Province (in the south-central region) meanwhile is reinvestigating a fatal police brutality case after prosecutors criticized the initial sentences issued to the convicted officers as overly lenient.
Three officers were sentenced to between 18 months to 5 years in prison for beating a local man to death while questioning him for his alleged involvement in a burglary in May of 2012. Two of those men were let off with suspended sentences.
In another high-profile case, Nguyen Thanh Chan of the northern province of Bac Giang served ten years of a life sentence for a wrongful murder charge in 2000. Following his release, he told reporters that police tortured and threatened him with death to force him to confess.
Chan began seeking compensation and an investigation into his claims after his name was officially cleared in January.
Last month, President Truong Tan Sang instructed prosecutors to clean up the justice system by strictly punishing police brutality, which he described as "not quite rampant but very harmful."
“Those people are destroying the system and the people’s confidence in the government,” he said.

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