(VNRN) – The day after an appellate court let two police officers walk free after causing the death of a jailed suspect, another man died in police custody in northern Nam Dinh province, adding further evidence that the police is allowing the use of deadly force with impunity against the people.
The victim in this latest case is 54-year old Tran Dinh Toan (Trần Đình Toàn) from Nam Dinh, a city 88km (55 miles) south of Hanoi. After lunch on June 11, Toan was called in to give a ride to a customer. At 1:15pm, the police came and asked everyone in the house their personal history, including Toan’s wife, children, and siblings, but said nothing about Toan.
Later, at 4:30pm the police came back and said Toan had died of drug overdose. The family came to the hospital and was not allowed access to his body until 7pm. “When we changed his clothes, we found bruises on his chest,” Toan’s brother wrote in his written request for an investigation, sent to the police.
The police told the family that around 12 noon, the police saw Toan ride with a customer, and they suspected Toan of drug possession, so they searched him but found nothing. Police then took Toan to the station, and, according to police, during questioning Toan showed signs he couldn’t breathe so they took him to the hospital where he died at 3pm.
The family, however, said Toan had never been a drug user, and couldn’t have overdosed on drug in the police station if he had been driving a motorbike when he was arrested. The family is seeking a formal investigation into Toan’s death.
This is just the latest in a long list of people who were suspected of wrongdoing — sometimes as minor as failure to wear a helmet while riding a motorbike — and ended up dead in police custody.
These deaths have occurred so frequently that a group of activists have even put together a list of victims of the police.
Blogger Me Nam (Mother Mushroom), one of the authors of the compilation, told Vietnam Right Now, “It is a problem, when more and more people are dying at police stations that it is becoming routine.”
She noted that the situation is getting worse as the courts have “delaying the time to try cases of death by police, as well as light sentences that have no deterrent or preventive value.”
“There’s no such thing as people coincidentally dying at the police station,” Me Nam said. “The police must take responsbility for the deaths that occur in detention.”
In Toan’s case, there are signs that the police are setting up their own evasion from responsibility. When the family came to get Toan’s body, the police told Toan’s widow Doan Thi Ly (Đoàn Thị Lý) to write down what they dictated.
“The police told Mrs. Ly to write down what they said, that my brother suffered from heart, liver and other chronic illnesses and they told my sister-in-law to sign it,” Toan’s brother wrote.
Local reporters trying to get information from the station were told that the ward police couldn’t comment without authorization from the city headquarters. Telephone messages left with the city police commander Tran Phu Ha (Trần Phú Hà) were not returned.
Photo top: Doan Thi Ly, whose husband Tran Dinh Toan died within 3 hours in police custody, wore mourning clothes as she spoke to reporters.