Vietnam court annuls verdict in fatal attack linked to cops

By Ngoc Le, Thanh Nien News

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Two men serving jail terms for beating a man to death in 2013 had their convictions annulled Wednesday by an appeal court in Ho Chi Minh City, amid suspicion that the violent attack was taken on an order from some unidentified cops. 
The court has also ordered a fresh investigation into the case.
However, the judging panel said the focus would not be on finding who had sent Le Thanh Bang, 37, and Vo Van Tong, 19, to beat the victim Tran Van Hien, 43. 
It said the probe is needed since Bang has recently changed his statement, which is conflicting with conclusions made at the first trial last year. 
At the hearing in November, Bang was sentenced to 12 years in prison, while Tong received a jail term of four years.
The cause of Hien's death had been recorded at that time as a brain injury, caused by him hitting the ground during the attack. Police had said the victim was wearing a helmet of dubious quality.
But at the recent appeal court, Bang said that he no longer remembered if the victim was wearing a helmet. 
This new statement was different from what police had said, so the cause of death needed to be clarified again, the judging panel said. 

Le Thanh Bang and Vo Van Tong stood a trial for beating a man to death in Ho Chi Minh City on January 28. Photo: Ngoc Le
According to the indictment, on April 9, 2013, Hien was riding his motorbike home, after drinking with his relatives.
A group of police officers spotted him and pulled him over for an alcohol test. 
They impounded his bike, after he failed the test.
Hien allegedly attempted to bribe the officers but his offer was turned down, so he had a quarrel with them.
The man also threatened to film the officers with his phone, before leaving on a xe om (motorbike taxi).
He soon found he was being chased by Bang and Tong. When the duo caught him, they beat him, while the xe om driver ran away. 
The duo left the site as Hien lost consciousness. Passers-by rushed the victim to a hospital where he died. 
Bang and Tong gave themselves up to police one week later.
Prosecutors said in the indictment that Bang owned a parking lot that also functioned as a police checkpoint.
The place was where the police officers pulled over and confiscated Hien's bike. 
Bang's lot also served as a holding space for vehicles that were impounded by traffic police.
According to Bang, he beat Hien, because he felt offended when seeing the way Hien treated the officers, adding that he then also felt upset about some family matters, so he took it out on the victim. 

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