Vietnam's dogged wife brings killer to justice, husband released 10 years after wrongful conviction

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A man in the northern province of Bac Giang has been released after serving 10 years of a life sentence for murder, with his wife's investigations forcing another man to confess to the crime.

Nguyen Thanh Chan, 52, came home Monday to the excitement of not only his family but also thousands of neighbors.

The police car carrying him was followed by people from the gates of his Me Village in Viet Yen District to his doorstep.

Chan had been arrested in September 2003 and sentenced the following year for the murder of a local woman for robbing her.

He filed an appeal but the sentence was upheld.

He and his family kept filing petitions but to no avail. Until last August that is.

His wife, Nguyen Thi Chien, heard the relatives of Ly Nguyen Chung, a 25-year-old local, talk about Chung in relation to the murder.

She secretly recorded their conversation and pieced the story together.

She also noticed that Chung had left the village soon after the murder and lived thousands of kilometers away in the Central Highlands.

Her petition in August accused Chung of being the murderer, and her evidence forced authorities to summon Chung, who turned up last month after switching phone numbers and whereabouts, including to China.

Chan's family is overwhelmed by the turn of events and the happy ending to their fight for justice.

His wife faints often while his four children keep sobbing about how their "shameful" days have ended.

Nguyen The Anh, the youngest son, said Chan's sentence turned their life upside down.

His mother could not manage to take good care of four children on her own, he said. "Though she tried very hard, she sent my three siblings only up to ninth grade. I had the privilege of finishing high school."

Chien said she worked as a vendor but spent most of the money on bus fares to visit Chan in a prison in Vinh Phuc Province every few months and to take petitions to various government agencies.

Some neighbors said the 48-year-old woman has developed mental illness after a decade of fighting for her husband's justice and seeing neighbors' hostility to her children.

She had to go to the National Psychiatric Hospital in Hanoi several times.

Chan is speechless to be home after 10 years.

The period of incarceration seems like forever, he said.

"I was tired and several times thought I would resign myself to the life sentence, but thinking about my family made me keep fighting."

He said he sent so many petitions through his wardens that they were tired and told him to behave so that he could get amnesty soon.

Chan's lawyer Nguyen Duc Bien said the sentence against him was based on loose arguments.

Chan had told investigators that he went out to fetch water at around 7 p.m. and came back home half an hour later, but it only took him 15 minutes while reenacting the scene for investigators.

They accused him of lying and concluded that he must have used the remaining time to kill the victim, identified only as Nguyen Thi H.

"It was unconvincing since actually no one knew exactly when Chan left home and when he came back."

The police did not recover the murder weapon either.

Chung is being tried Wednesday while the court will also decide on the compensation to be paid to Chan if he had been sentenced wrongly.

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