Vietnamese demands $550k for wrongful murder conviction in 4-decade case

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Tran Van Them, who was just cleared of a murder conviction, at his house in Bac Ninh Province. Photo: Thuy Hang
Tran Van Them, who was just cleared of a murder conviction, at his house in Bac Ninh Province. Photo: Thuy Hang

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The lawyer of a man who has recently been cleared of a murder conviction says his client is seeking more than VND12 billion, or nearly US$550,000, in compensation for 43 years fighting the case.
Nguyen Van Hoa, representing the 80-year-old Tran Van Them in the northern province of Bac Ninh, said the money is to recompense for psychological damage, Them’s ordeal to fight for justice, and his loss of income, especially during the long incarceration period of five and a half years.
“We’ve reached the number based on the government’s compensation rules,” Hoa said, as cited by news website Zing.
In July 1970, Them and his cousin traveled to Vinh Phuc Province on a business trip when the latter was found dead with head injuries in a vacant tent along the road where they had stopped for the night.
Them said they had been robbed, but local authorities insisted he was the prime suspect and detained him.
He was convicted of murder in 1973 and sentenced to death. The Supreme People's Court upheld the conviction a year later.
But in 1975 a teenage boy from Vinh Phuc, who had been staying at an education camp, owned up to the killing. The Supreme Court ordered a fresh investigation and Them’s release.
Them has, over the years, filed multiple pleas to clear his name, but it has taken until now, when he is very weak and can only walk with assistance, for his vindication.
He received a public apology from the supreme court at a district government office in Bac Ninh on Thursday, two days after the court officially admitted that it had wrongfully convicted him.
"I've been waiting for this day for so long," Them said.
Locals said he has seemed healthier and more cheerful since the apology.
Tran Thi Xuan, his 59-year-old daughter, said the whole family could not sleep the night before the apology.
“Now my dad no longer has to go to bed every night with a headache,” she said.
Last year, Vietnam's highest court awarded VND 7.2 billion ($360,000) to a man who had served 10 years in prison for a wrongful murder conviction.

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