Dong Tam case: Will hearing be fair and uphold the law?

Hình ảnh này chưa có thuộc tính alt; tên tệp của nó là 2020-09-04_140557-1024x576.jpg
Many members of Mr. Le Dinh Kinh’s family are imprisoned after his death.

Mr. Le Dinh Kinh died and “three people’s police soldiers sacrificed” in the police raid in Dong Tam commune on Jan 9.

The “serious” case that killed the three police officers in Dong Tam commune, My Duc district, Hanoi city, and 29 defendants are about to be brought to trial on September 7, according to the state-controlled media on August 25.

Whether this case will be judged, fair and carried out in the spirit of the rule of law or not, the social impact, how the community can, on this occasion, four political observers and legal experts from Vietnam and overseas share their comments with BBC News Vietnamese.

First of all, they said their reaction when the press and the government media on Tuesday reported that the case was about to bring to trial.

Dr. Ha Hoang Hop (guest senior researcher at Iseas Institute, Singapore): I read Tuoi Tre newspaper, found that the media said the trial is set on September 7 to adjudicate the “murder” and “resisting against on-duty state officials” at Dong Tam. At the end of July, the Phap Luat (Law) newspaper posted the news that this case would be heard in August. Many other newspapers also published this news.

The fact that 3 police officers were burned and an 85-year-old citizen was killed on January 9 in Dong Tam and led to the arrests of 29 land petitioners, probed for the case then prosecuted with charges of “murder” and “resisting on-duty officials.”

In society, there are many opinions about this incident (and case). The state-controlled newspapers reported it in the same way as when they make a judgment on behalf of the judge!

Journalist Nguyen Huu Vinh (former major security officer): Citing the information released from the Chief Justice of the Hanoi Court in early July, the Dong Tam case will be tried in August. At the same time, there was an early phenomenon when the case was transferred to the Procuracy and the Court, the lawyers said they had difficulty in accessing the case and meeting the defendants. Many civil society organizations and hundreds of dignitaries, intellectuals and people have signed a declaration protesting against such authorities’ move. I think there will be urgent trial.

However, only now with the notice the case to be held in September, lawyers have gradually been met with a request to serve the defense, although it is too late. There may be several reasons: authorities need to unify the three judiciary branches internally, to understand the direction of “upper leadership,” need to “cool down” the public sentiment, at the same time avoiding the time before the anniversary of the establishment of the police forces and the National Day. It may take more time for the “confessing” of the defendants to go smoothly. There are a number of lawyers appointed. Whether they will work objectively, impartially, follow any direction or not is a small problem.

Lawyer Nguyen Van Dai (human rights activist from Germany): Currently, Hanoi city is preparing to conduct the City Party Congress. Therefore, the Vietnamese government brought the Dong Tam case to trial at this time for political purposes, but it is not an ordinary criminal case.

Normally, cases that are of much interest to the public, the presiding judge will be the chief of the Criminal Court, but in this case only the deputy chief of Criminal Court.

The crime of murder is still used to accuse 25 land petitioers of Dong Tam. But during the past time, Dong Tam petitioners, social activists, and many lawyers have denied murder charges after they carefully examined the crime scene.

What question mark?

BBC: Is there anything worth questioning about the case and the defendants through such reporting? Do you personally believe what the defendants are accused of?

Dr. Nguyen Quang A: I absolutely do not believe their allegations from Jan 9, 2020 up to now.

Mr. Ha Hoang Hop: Through the state controlled press and the information on social networks … I understand that 3 police officers died while raiding on assigned missions, and the 85 year old man was shot to death by riot police in his bedroom. I do not believe that that the elderly Mr. Le Dinh Kinh was the killer before being killed.

I understand that the government has not come into dialogue with Mr. Kinh and other land petitioners in Dong Tam. Before that, Mr. Kinh and a number of people were probed for “illegal detention.” If the police came to Đồng Tâm to arrest them under that crime, why did not carry out during day time?

Mr. Nguyen Huu Vinh: As I have stated right from the day of the incident, in a BBC Round Table program on January 9, we want to prove that if the government is clear and righteous, not indomitable in the case work, it should let the press and lawyers come and meet villagers immediately. At the same time, the National Assembly and the Hanoi government also had to step in immediately (because they used to do so). However, all happened not as the public expected, and followed by too many developments and information to support the unusual phenomena of the case.

Regarding the way of reporting, it is very strange, although the “strange” for this case has been untold. It was a large special case, in many ways, in which up to 25 defendants were prosecuted with the highest penalty frame of the death penalty, which the press reports gave very little. The content summaries of each report were not the same, in a seemingly contradictory way. I don’t see it clearly.

Mr. Nguyen Van Dai: The state-controlled media’s reporting confirmed that the defendants committed murder. Thus, the reporting is a guide for social orientation.

According to the provisions of the Vietnamese criminal procedure law, the conclusion that the defendants commit murder or not can only be done in court. The press is not allowed to make conclusions without a legally effective judgment.

It is not allowed to quote the content of the investigation conclusion or the indictment to the press for conclusion on behalf of the Trial Panel.

After reviewing the crime scene photos and video clips, as well as analyzing the content of the investigation conclusion, I confirmed that there was no proof proving that the defendants had killed 3 policemen.

How to report?

BBC: Is the state-media’s coverage itself worth mentioned? Is it objective, fair, legal, and reasonable?

Mr. Nguyen Quang A: It is a bit ridiculous to ask for an objective, fair, and legal compliance with the press controlled by the Communist Party of Vietnam!

Mr. Ha Hoang Hop: If reports are received from the court or the police, they must publish it verbatim, because the government strictly controls the press – the media. Everyone has been patient since the beginning of the year, so should still be patient until the case goes to public trial.

Mr. Nguyen Huu Vinh: There have been countless articles analyzing the case, so I would like to summarize some very unusual points based on the news recently released: 1- The powerful police force entered the village in the early morning, people were sleeping well. It has nothing to do with the construction and the dispute beyond that distant field. 2- The death of Mr. Le Dinh Kinh. 3- The death of three police officers (not “soldiers” as reported), in terms of professional expertise, was extremely illogical. With the participation of thousands of fully armed soldiers, why should 3 officers (of which one is the level that may command the entire operation) to climb up the danger, at the location? most importantly, fell into the same hole again, couldn’t help each other climb, didn’t have any teammates to support, etc.? Did they die together as soon as they fell into the pit? Does forensic clear this up? From there to determine if they were in an accident or killed. This is a very important point

Another very important point is that the news did not mention, but perhaps the indictment also “forgets,” that is the complicated and prolonged developments of the Dong Tam case, with the participation of the National Assembly and the Hanoi authorities for many years. If “forgetting” these developments, then how can the profound nature of the case be shown, the conciliatory and cooperative attitude of the persons now accused (it will be a mitigating circumstance if the court decides they are guilty), how to show joint responsibility of many levels of government for this consequence, etc.

Neither did the newspapers say whether the trial was open to the public. Through all information about the case, along with the analysis above, I think that the accusation of the defendants is unconvincing, more likely to cause injustice, even omitting the crime for those who are not among those defendants. For example, the death of Mr. Le Dinh Kinh can not be such a simple conclusion.

Mr. Nguyen Van Dai: As mentioned above. The press reporting the contents of the investigation conclusions and indictments like the trial panel’s conclusion is contrary to the Constitution and laws of Vietnam.

Such reporting is not objective, unfair and violates Vietnamese law.

A lotus pond in Hanoi

Premonition and prediction?

BBC: Your prediction about the trial of the case, its final outcome, will it end before the opening of the 13th party National Congress and the political, social, and public impact? How?

Mr. Ha Hoang Hop: In my opinion, this is a case that does not show justice and the rule of law!

Mr. Nguyen Quang A: With this “judicial” background, they will definitely behave as they wish, regardless of the defense of the accused land petitioners (it is likely they will “confess“) and the lawyers. And the mainstream media will condemn these farmers and Mr. Kinh.

There will be heavy judgments. There will be consequences of this case perhaps a hundred years later! And no one has foreseen its short-term consequences on the fate of the Communist Party of Vietnam (the long-term effect is conspicuous because it can contribute to the end of any regime which always is loud with the propaganda to work for the working people and the peasants but conducting opposite actions like sending thousands of policemen to attack the villagers at night and falsely blame them “resisting on-duty state officials.”)

Mr. Nguyen Huu Vinh: With all the moves from the party, the state and legal agencies since Jan, along with the nature of the Vietnamese judicial system, it is easy guess the outcome of the hearing(s).

Is it possible that, just hope, with the pre-eminent leaders’ sobriety and public opinion, they will direct the mitigation of the sentence for some defendants compared to the original desire.

However, if the hearing (s) are held openly, in accordance with the provisions of law, in the spirit of judicial reform, where lawyers are litigated equally, the defendants are not challenged in many ways, the press is not “directed” by any restrictions, etc., luckily, it is more likely that the trial result will meet somewhat of the expectations of the people.

The socio-political impact on this trial(s) is enormous and long-term, difficult to predict. Unfortunately, it is likely that they have to continue the moves they have made and have no way to correct their mistakes. It is typical of Vietnamese politics. The greater the power, the more difficult it is to accept mistakes and correct mistakes.

Mr. Nguyen Van Dai: I expect some Dong Tam people to receive life sentences.

Surely the Dong Tam case will make the party and the Communist regime lose more credibility with the people. And of course it will accumulate people’s dissatisfaction with the regime. I think this accumulation of discontent will lead to future political change in Vietnam.

As the first instance trial was shceduled on September 7, and it will have enough time for the appeal to take place by the end of this year, that is before the 13th National Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam.

But whether they will open an appeal hearing before the congress or not depends on people’s reactions before and after the first-instance hearing. At the same time, it depends on the internal affairs of the party before its National Congress slated for Jan next year.

The midnight raid on Hoanh village, Dong Tam village on January 9, 2020, of 3,000 special forces soldiers of the Ministry of Public Security equipped with sniffing dogs and full of protective tools (Translated)


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