Doan Van Vuon (2nd L, front row) and his family members stand trial in Hai Phong, April 2, 2013. AFP
Vietnamese prosecutors on Thursday asked a court to impose a lenient
sentence on a former soldier who fought off a government eviction from
his farm, a move some say is meant to avoid angering a public fed up
with land seizures and corrupt officials.
that Doan Van Vuon be sentenced to 5-6 years in prison for charges of
attempted murder when he used explosives and weapons to stop security
forces from seizing his farmland last year.
A conviction for attempted murder in Vietnam carries a minimum sentence of 12 years in prison and a maximum sentence of death.
50, and his family members used land mines and homemade shotguns to
repel security forces who came to repossess their fish farm on Jan. 5,
2012. Four policemen and two soldiers suffered serious injuries during
Vuon is being tried along with his brothers Doan Van
Quy and Doan Van Sinh, and Sinh’s son Doan Van Ve, all of whom face the
same charges. Prosecutors suggested that Quy receive up to 5 years in
prison, Sinh receive up to 4 years, and Ve receive up to 2 1/2 years of
The four men have been incarcerated since authorities
attempted to forcibly evict them from their farm in Hai Phong’s Tien
Prosecutors are also seeking up to 1 1/2 years of
probation for Vuon’s wife Nguyen Thi Thuong and 2 years for Quy’s wife
Pham Thi Bau. Both face charges of protesting during the eviction.
day three of the four-day trial at the Hai Phong People’s Court in
northern Vietnam, the prosecution said it had considered “mitigating
circumstances” surrounding the incident while making their
recommendations for sentencing.
The court will make its decision in the case on Friday.
Vu Hai, an attorney who is following the case, told RFA’s Vietnamese
Service that court prosecutors were “clearly under pressure from above
and from the public” to lessen the proposed sentence, but still felt the
need to show that the defendants are guilty.
“That was why the
proposed sentence was not severe enough to make people angry and largely
to avoid protests by the public,” the lawyer said.
“They proposed a sentence which is lower than half the minimum sentence according to the law.”
called the charges of attempted murder “inappropriate” and “irrelevant”
because the prosecutors have no proof that the men had intended to kill
Vuon, claiming that the eviction decision was illegal,
told the court that he used the weapons to give police “a warning so
they will realize it was dangerous. I didn't intend to hurt the eviction
Hai said that it was still unclear who had fired the
first shot during last year’s confrontation because no independent
offices, such as the Ministry of Police or prosecutor’s office, were
involved in the investigation.
He said that all of the judges
involved in the case are members of the ruling Vietnamese Communist
Party and must follow the orders of the Hai Phong Party Secretary, who
is himself a police officer.
Hai said he had heard that leaders
of the local government and justice branch in Hai Phong were waiting for
direction from the central government, but that Hanoi had told them to
handle the situation “in a way that will not make people angry and in
accordance with Vietnamese law.”
“We will have to wait until tomorrow to find out how they will rule,” he said.
Anger over trial
trial has elicited widespread support for the former
soldier-turned-folk hero and his family, both within Vietnam, where land
disputes are a contentious issue, and from rights groups abroad.
of supporters traveled to the northern port city to protest the first
day of Vuon’s trial, resulting in several detentions, participants said.
On Thursday, Vietnamese writer Ta Duy Anh told RFA that Vuon and his family had been subjected to “an historical injustice.”
had never been a case like this before … The source of all the
wrongdoing is the local government, but they blame everything on the
family,” he said.
Another writer named Ha Si Phu called the
sentence recommendations “surprising,” saying most people had predicted a
severe punishment that would dissuade other farmers from rising up
against the authorities.
trial also drew condemnation from rights groups abroad including
Paris-based Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) and Human Rights
Watch (HRW) in New York.
VCHR called the trial a “travesty of
justice” in a statement released Thursday, adding that Vuon and his
family had been subject to a “grossly flawed legal process.”
trial in Hai Phong shows the hypocrisy and fraudulence of both the
judicial and political systems in Vietnam” said VCH President Vo Van Ai.
the use of violence cannot be condoned, these farmers face the death
penalty for defending land that was rightly their own.”
Ai called on the trial judges to prove that they “are not mere tools of the Party and state” and acquit the family.
Robertson, Deputy Director of HRW’s Asia Division, said “the linked
issues of land seizures and corrupt officials, combined with a lack of
due process and legality” was what really made Vuon’s trial resonate in
the minds of ordinary Vietnamese people.
“These events are an
important warning sign to the Vietnamese government about what can
happen when it lets its officials violate human rights with impunity,”
“The fact that ordinary citizens were harassed, roughed
up and in some cases temporarily detained when gathering outside the
courthouse shows how desperately the government wants to put this whole
incident behind them without learning it's lessons about the need for
real respect for human rights and rule of law in Vietnam.”