(VNRN) – Despite widespread denouncement, a court in coastal Phu Yen province on April 3 still gave suspended sentences to two police officers convicted of beating a suspect to death. The court rejected two other proposals for suspended sentences and sent three other police to prison from 1 to 5 years in the deadly torture case.
Five policemen were convicted of “using corporal punishment” and beating then-30-year-old Ngo Thanh Kieu [Ngô Thanh Kiều] repeatedly with rubber nightsticks in March 2012, while he was handcuffed and shackled to a chair. One of them, Nguyen Than Thao Thanh [Nguyễn Thân Thảo Thành] was convicted of delivering the fatal blow to Kieu’s head and received the 5 year sentence.
These officers were not prosecuted for murder because, according to Chief People’s Procurator Le Minh Chanh [Lê Minh Chánh], the beatings were motivated by “a rush to conclude the investigation and not to cause injury or death.”
The victim’s family objected to the sentences and announced they would appeal. During trial, Kieu’s sister, wife, father, and two young chidren attended court in mourning and they often broke down and cried often upon hearing the accused describe how they had tortured Kieu.
The Tuoi Tre Daily quoted Kieu’s sister Ngo Thi Tuyet [Ngô Thị Tuyết] as saying in tears, “My brother was kept hungry since early in the morning until his death at the end of the day. He was not allowed to say the last word. Handcuffed and shackled, he was unable to resist while the police kept beating him in turn until he was killed painfully.”
The court also rejected calls for the prosecution of the deputy chief of city police, Colonel Le Duc Hoan [Lê Đức Hoàn], stating that the court had no jurisdiction when the procuracy did not prosecute. Earlier, the People’s Procuracy had said that Hoan should be exempt from prosecution because he “came from a good family and has served in his job well.”
During closing arguments, Vo An Don [Võ An Đôn], the lawyer representing the victim’s family, continued to press for Hoan’s prosecution, telling the court that the evidence showed Hoan “was the one who directed the illegal arrest of Kieu, Hoan personally knew his subordinates used tortured but turned a blind eye, did nothing to stop it.”
According to the judgment, Hoan directed the investigation of thefts, and the investigation led to the victim Kieu’s arrest without warrant. The judgment also confirmed that it was Hoan who assigned two of the defendants to interrogate Kieu, one senior lieutenant and one major, and later added another major. A fourth defendant, a second lieutenant, was interrogating a suspected accomplice and joined in Kieu’s interrogation.
Thao Thanh, the junior lieutenant who was convicted of delivering the fatal blow, was said to be unconnected to the case and was only supposed to keep an eye on Kieu while the others ate lunch.
All were convicted of handcuffing and shackling Kieu to a chair and beat him with more than 70 blows, crushing his testicles and internal organs and causing his death by head concussion.
The three officers who received prison sentences were: Thao Thanh, 5 years, the two officers who started the interrogation from the start Major Nguyen Minh Quyen [Nguyễn Minh Quyền], 2 years, and Senior Lieutenant Pham Ngoc Man [Phạm Ngọc Mẫn], 1 year 6 months.
The other two officers who joined the interrogation and torture as it was already ongoing, Major Nguyen Tan Quang [Nguyễn Tấn Quang], and Lieutenant Do Nhu Huy [Đỗ Như Huy], were given suspended sentences.