The defendents in a VND33 billion fraud case in Dak Lak Province at a trial April 3. Photo courtesy of Tien Phong
A Central Highlands court has demanded that a Ho Chi Minh City lawyer be punished for making Facebook comments designed to foment discontent about a controversial trial in Dak Lak.
In a petition sent to Vietnam's supreme court, Nguyen Duy Huu, chief judge of Dak Lak Province's People’s Court, said attorney Luu Mai Hung had made improper comments on the social networking site.
The comments mainly dealt with the court's handling of a VND33 billion (US$1.56 million) fraud case and the jury's ruling on April 3.
Huu said Hung had criticized the jury “with ignorant, disrespectful words.”
The judge further accused Hung of encouraging his friends to make “thoughtless and offensive” comments and incited discord within the media and among the lawyers representing fraud victims.
Hung, who works for a Ho Chi Minh City law firm and serves as a member of the city bar association, defended Bui Thi Hong Sen, an intern at a commune justice office who stood accused of abusing her official powers.
Sen fainted in court after being sentenced to six years in jail. Her supervisor, who directed and oversaw her actions, received only five.
Nguyen Thi Hoa, who was convicted of masterminding the scheme to
borrow money from the bank in 60 peoples' names only to appropriate most
of it, received a life sentence.
Hoang Duc Thach, who was hired by Hoa as a deliveryman, said he handed all of the loan applications directly to Sen’s bosses, and not her.
“Her sentence was too heavy,”
Three Agribank employees were handed up to seven years in jail each.
Tien Phong (Pioneer) newspaper cited people involved as criticizing the ruling was unfair.
Many of the plaintiffs vowed to appeal after the jury ordered them to return bank funds which were technically stolen by Hoa.
Among the rulings: plaintiff Dao Thi Gai said that after she borrowed VND50 million from the bank herself, Hoa asked to borrow VND150 million in her name. However, the jury found she must pay VND80 million and Hoa only VND120 million.
“Is that fair and thoughtful?” Gai said.
Nguyen Thi Nguyet, another plaintiff, said Hoa had offered to borrow VND500 million for her but took all the money; the jury believed Hoa's claim that she only took VND200 million.
Among his posts, Hung called the jury “chicken and heartless.”
He said the presiding judge had dismissed statements of truth and frequently stifled critical testimony.
“There were strong orders against the law, rude interruptions at all stages of the case, which lead to wrongful charges and, ultimately, leniency for criminals,” he said.
Dak Lak People’s Court said Hung’s statements not only violate the lawyers’ code of ethics but also the law.
Hung also stands accused of failing to wear the appropriate attire to the trial.
Ha Hai, vice chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association’s reward and punishment council, said it has received the complaint and will summon Hung before deciding a suitable solution.
While lawyers are subject to punishments when making statements that are offensive during a trial, Hai said, similar statements posted on social networking sites are not quite bound by the same rules.
The petition was filed with several central government agencies in addition to the Vietnam Bar Association.
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