Vietnam province reopens fatal police brutality case seeking higher penalty

By Duc Huy, Thanh Nien News

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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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An appeals court in south-central Vietnam has ordered a fresh probe into a deadly police brutality case after a verdict, last April, drew widespread public criticism.
The trial by Phu Yen Province People’s Court closed after two days on Wednesday and cancelled the previous ruling from the Tuy Hoa Town People’s Court by calling for equal punishments for all five convicted cops and some to their bosses.
Nguyen Than Thao Thanh received five years -- the highest jail term among the five -- in April. 
Nguyen Minh Quyen got two years, Pham Ngoc Man 18 months and Nguyen Tan Quang and Do Nhu Huy were put on probation for 18 and 12 months respectively.
They were found guilty of beating Ngo Thanh Kieu, 32, to death with rubber batons between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m, on May 13, 2012, while questioning him about his alleged involvement in a burglary.
Thanh was found guilty of dealing the fatal blow to Kieu's head which caused the cerebral trauma that was identified as the direct cause of his death.
Judge Vo Nguyen Tung at the appeals court said all five officers should be held equally responsible for Kieu’s death.
He said each officer had seen the others hit Kieu, but instead of stopping their colleagues, they added to the abuse.
“They absorbed each other’s will to commit the same crime,” he said.
He criticized the court of first instance for making a serious mistake when leaving two officers out of jail.
Phu Yen provincial prosecutors filed the appeal after President Truong Tan Sang asked the supreme court and the country’s top prosecutors to instruct relevant agencies to apply the laws more correctly and punish the officers more harshly to assuage the angry public and the victim's family.
Following the initial trial, the media reported widespread public discontent with the verdict; numerous newspapers carried editorials arguing it was too lenient.
Kieu’s family also expressed anger at the compensation the Tuy Hoa court ordered his killers to pay to his two children: VND575,000 (US$27) a month each.
“Two low, only enough to eat plain rice,” Kieu’s sister Ngo Thi Tuyet said.

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