Two men imprisoned unjustly for opposing police brutality

In an apparently unfair trial on June 2, two men from the southern province of Khanh Hoa were sentenced to one year and three months of imprisonment for “causing public disorder”, despite their claim that all what they did was just to oppose the local police who beat their nephew to death in late 2013 and they actually were not involved in any public disorder.

Mai Dinh Tam and Nguyen Van Ly at the court. Photo courtesy of the Phap luat TP.HCM.

Mai Dinh Tam and Nguyen Van Ly at the court. Photo courtesy of the Phap luat TP.HCM.

Tu Ngoc Thach (b. 1999), an elementary pupil of the Luong The Vinh school in Khanh Hoa, was handcuffed and detained in a local police station on December 29, 2013, after a small clash with Le Tan Khoe, a young policeman of the same age. There Thach was beaten brutally by Khoe and two other policemen, Le Minh Phat and Le Ngoc Tam, until he got unconscious. The family was then asked to bail him out, and he died two days later due to severe brain damage.

Thach was the nephew of Mai Dinh Tam, 47, and Nguyen Van Ly, 43. Upon hearing the news of his death, Tam and Ly rushed to the hospital to retrieve his body. They cried and shouted in tears, “My nephew was killed by the police!” Thousands of people gathered along National Highway 1 to express their anger over the murder of the 14-year-old schoolboy, causing a bad traffic jam with long tailbacks. Tam and Ly were arrested shortly afterwards and charged with “causing public disorder”.

During police interrogation, Mai Dinh Tam, an illiterate, was even unaware of the charge.

Nguyen Van Ly said before the court today (June 2) that he was extorted and deceived by the investigating police. “That police, whose name is Cong, asked me to say that I… went to the local People’s Committee, then to National Highway 1 to shout and cry. I denied to sign my name on that false testimonial, but he coaxed me to sign first and consider it later.”

The defending lawyer, Vo An Don, said there is not any basis to charge the two accused with “causing public disorder” because there had been more than 500 people already gathering along National Highway 1, causing a traffic jam before the two accused actually came. “The crowd was there for people were too infuriated with the torture and murder of a 14-year-old schoolboy by the police,” said lawyer Don. He added that Mai Dinh Tam as a fisherman was in fact on the sea before he learnt about his nephew’s death, and National Highway 1. was already blocked then. “How could a man on the sea be liable for a “public disorder” on the road?,” the lawyer argued.

The procuracy admitted that thousands of people were blocking and causing the traffic jam on National Highway 1 before the two accused arrived. However, prosecutors insisted it was Tam’s and Ly’s shouts and cries that made the police unable to disperse the crowd, so Tam and Ly must be guilty.

Police brutality has been haunting Vietnam for years, with increasing cases of people killed inside police stations across the country. The problem is getting worse with criminal covers-up by the law enforcement body and the police-controlled court system.