“Harsh sentence” for youth in land clash

Tuan was accused of violent resistance. Photo courtesy of the Thanh Nien.

Tuan was accused of violent resistance. Photo courtesy of the Thanh Nien.

A 15-year-old boy has been sentenced to four and a half years in prison following a violent clash over land evictions at his village near Ho Chi Minh City.

Nguyen Mai Trung Tuan was accused of intentionally inflicting injury on law officers, who had come to evict his extended family from their farmland in Long An Province in April.

His lawyer and human rights activists condemned the sentence as far too harsh for a minor.

It was one of series of confrontations over land seizures across Vietnam, where farmers have accused the local authorities of paying too little compensation, and of making huge profits from the sale of land to developers.

12 members of the family were arrested and jailed after the incident, but Tuan managed to get away and was on the run until his arrest in August.

An appeal court today upheld the sentence of 3 years and 6 months imposed on his mother, Mai Thi Kim Huong, but reduced the 3 year term for his grandfather to a suspended sentence.

Tuan’s 13-year-old sister was granted bail and is the only member of the family to escape time in jail.

The family were accused of arming themselves with makeshift weapons, including bombs, mines and gas canisters, to resist eviction officers carrying out a land seizure on behalf of the local government.

Tuan was accused of throwing a glass of acid at the officer in charge of the operation, Nguyen Van Thuy.

Tuan told the court that he had been in a panic when he saw the officials grab and assault his parents, and he threw the acid in defence of his family.

Tuan had just turned 15 years at the time of the land eviction.

Tuan had just turned 15 years at the time of the land eviction.

His lawyer, Nguyen Van Mieng, told the Redemptorist Church online news service that the sentence imposed on Tuan was too severe. He said that all of his submissions had been rejected by the court.

Mieng had requested testimony from forensic experts, arguing that the evidence about the nature of the injuries sustained in the clash was far too vague. But he was turned down.

The lawyer told foreign media that the injuries were given a provisional severity rating of 35% at the time of the clash, but no further details were forthcoming about their nature or when they were inflicted.

He said that Tuan, as a minor, should have received a lighter sentence.

Tuan’s parents were also ordered to pay compensation to the injured official of 42.6 million VND or $1,900.

The court had previously declared that it was an open trial, but human rights activists were denied access.

Dozens had travelled to the court in Long An, about 50 kilometres southwest of Ho Chi Minh City.

They were only able to listen to the proceedings through megaphones which broadcast from the court room.