Authorities in Binh Thuan Province on Thursday officially apologized to a 53-year-old man who served 17 years in jail for a wrongful murder conviction in a serious miscarriage of justice.
They admitted that severe mistakes had been made, leading to the wrong sentence for Huynh Van Nen. He was only cleared of the crime in October.
Nen was arrested in May 1998 for the death of his neighbor Nguyen Thi Bong earlier that year. Investigators said Nen admitted to killing her to steal her belongings.
Police also said that Nen also confessed that he and nine of his relatives had killed another woman, Duong Thi My, in 1993. All of them were arrested soon after that.
In August 2000, a court in the central province of Binh Thuan found him guilty of murdering Bong. He was sentenced to life in prison.
One month later, Nguyen Phuc Thanh, a relative by marriage, appealed the verdict on Nen's behalf. Thanh claimed that two of his friends, Nguyen Tho and Ho Van Viet, were the killers and told him about the crime.
The appeal was rejected, as were several others in the following years.
In 2005, after several hearings, Nen and his relatives were cleared of killing My. All of them were apologized to and compensated, except for Nen, who went on to serve his jail sentence for the murder of Bong.
Huynh Van Nen and his wife listen to Binh Thuan authorities' apology on December 3, 2015. Photo: Que Ha
In November 2014, the Supreme Court ordered his case to be reopened. This time investigators concluded that he had not killed Bong.
On October 22, he was released on bail for medical treatment.
On October 28, his wrongful conviction in the death of Bong was finally overturned, after more than 17 years.
Tho, one of the two suspects, was arrested last month. He confessed to the murder. The other suspect, Viet, died in 2001.
The authorities have not mentioned how they will compensate Nen.
“I hope that other offices will cooperate with us to rapidly restore Huynh Van Nen’s full rights, helping him return to his normal life,” judge Tran Thi Kim Huong from Binh Thuan said after delivering the official apology.
"I have lived in bitterness and humiliation for more than 17 years," Nen said Thursday morning. "Someone asked me if I had ever thought about suicide, to which I said no."
"Although I was wronged, I always believed that someone would clear my name. I believe in justice and it finally happened to me, even though it's late.
"I hope that investigators and judges will give careful consideration to every decision they make, so no one will ever be wrongfully convicted like I was," he said in tears.