Dong Tam Land Petitioners’ Lawyers Issue Joint Petition to Demand Fair Trial


Defend the Defenders, September 5, 2020


Thirteen attorneys who provide legal assistance for 21 out of 29 prosecuted 29 land petitioners in Dong Tam commune have issued a joint petition to the People’s Procuracy and the People’s Court of Hanoi to raise issues surrounding the case which certainly affect the fair trial and the outcome of the first-instance hearing scheduled on September 7-16 by the People’s Court of Hanoi.

The petition, dated September 3, listed several difficulties and obstacles that the lawyers faced throughout the legal process, including the following main points (summarised):

1/ During the investigation phase:

Police Investigation Bureau of the Hanoi Police Department has:

  • delayed providing certificates authorizing several lawyers including Ngo Anh Tuan, Dang Dinh Manh, and Le Van Hoa to represent their clients
  • not allowed the lawyers to meet their clients privately in the detention center, even though this case is not related to national security.
  • not permitted the lawyers to have access to case files after the investigation had been concluded, despite the lawyers’ repeated requests.

2/ During the prosecution case

The People’s Procuracy of Hanoi did not allow the lawyers to access the case files which would help them make recommendations as to how best to protect their clients’ legal rights, despite the lawyers’ repeated requests.

3/ During the preparation phase for court proceedings

The People’s Court of Hanoi left it very late before allowing the lawyers to make copy/ take photos of the case files. They could only do that in the end, after many requests.

Yet, the court secretary did not allow the lawyers to make a copy of 2 USBs among the case files which had video clips and photos of how the police force attacked the Dong Tam commune on January 9, 2020, and how the raid actually unfolded.

At the time of submitting the petition, just four days before the trial on September 7, the lawyers still could not copy these USBs to research on the case despite many requests.

4/ Hanoi temporary detention center No. 2 under the authority of the Hanoi Police Department caused difficulties to the lawyers

Many times the authorities of the Hanoi temporary detention center No. 2 didn’t allow the lawyers to meet their clients despite all legal procedures had been satisfied. Many times, upon arriving at the detention center, the lawyers had to leave, as detention center officers rang their superiors then told the lawyers they were not allowed to meet their clients without giving a proper explanation.

After the case files had been forwarded to the court, whenever the lawyers went to the detention center to meet their clients, always there were 2 detention center officers sitting next to the lawyers and their clients, listening in to all phone conversations between the lawyers and their clients. In some meetings, detention center officers even brazenly interjected when lawyers and clients were in the middle of their conversations- this violates the law.

Since the lawyers could not have timely access to the case files as allowed by the law, nor could they meet their clients in private to understand the clients’ wishes, the lawyers had always been pressed and placed on the back foot as compared to the prosecution side.

After weeks, lawyers were allowed to copy the case files and meet with defendants in the detention center. However, they detected that several details in the interrogation conclusion statement were inconsistent with the defendants’ testimonies as found in the case files. They also contradicted the defendants’ accounts of events when the defendants had the chance to talk directly with their lawyers, without the presence of the interrogators.

Most seriously, many newly emerged details can alter the nature of a number of incidents that had occurred during the attack on Jan 9, in direct contradiction to a number of issues that had been stated in the police’s interrogation conclusion and the indictment. Yet, at this point in time, the lawyers no longer had enough time to verify and clarify those contradicting details.

5/ The Hanoi People’s Procuracy’s Indictment 241/CT-VKS-P2 dated June 24, 2020 (the Indictment) contains many incorrect and untrue details

False accusation and conclusion that deceased Mr. Le Dinh Kinh “had committed murder,” even though he should have been presumed innocent at the time of his death during the attack on Jan 9, as he had never been sentenced by a court for such charge.

The indictment copied almost the totality of the information about the case as stated in reports done previously by the Hanoi Inspector’s Office and the Hanoi People’s Committee. The truth had been “edited out” leading readers to form a negative impression on the defendants.

6/ The attack in Dong Tam commune on January 9 described as such in the Indictment has been planned by the Hanoi Police Department, approved by the Hanoi People’s Committee and endorsed by the Ministry of Public Security

Page 5 of the indictment stated that the plan to “attack” Dong Tam commune had been proposed by the Hanoi Police Department. The plan had been approved by the Hanoi People’s Committee and endorsed by the Ministry of Public Security.

Thus there had been detailed planning by said authorities to attack Dong Tam commune on January 9. It had not been an unexpected occurrence, thus a total contradiction to all the information provided by the Ministry of Public Security to the public on its own website, then relayed by the state-controlled media since.

Until this point in time, many people still think that the detained Dong Tam villagers had clashed with the police forces at Dong Senh (Senh field), where there has been a land dispute, not in Hoanh village, Dong Tam commune, or in Mr. Kinh’s house.

7/ The accusation that Mr. Le Dinh Kinh used a knife with a long metal handle to attack policemen requires a reality check

Mr. Kinh was an elderly invalid who needed a stick to move around at the time of the attack. The indictment conclusion that he had attacked two policemen with a knife first, [while having to lean on a stick with the other hand for support], thus justifying him being killed, requires a crime scene re-enactment to verify whether this had actually happened.

8/ Inconsistent details about the circumstances of Mr. Le Dinh Kinh’s death

The indictment stated that he was shot twice from behind, but the autopsy proved he was shot from the front. This was consistent with defendant Mr. Bui Viet Hieu’s accounts.

Mr. Hieu told the lawyers when they met in prison, that Mr. Kinh was shot right in front of him, that “the shooter stood in front of Mr. Kinh about 1 meter in distance, the barrel the size of a wrist, aiming straight at Mr. Kinh’s chest. Mr.Kinh fell down and died right in front of me, after which canine police came in to drag his body out.”

9/ The autopsy to open up Mr. Le Dinh Kinh’s body was illegal

Mr. Kinh’s family was not asked for permission nor invited to be present at the autopsy, so this act was illegal.

10/ Defendant Mr. Bui Viet Hieu was shot heavily injured.

Mr. Hieu told the lawyers that after Mr. Kinh was shot dead, someone shone a bright light and fired two shots at him, one hit his leg, another one hit his chest.

He was severely injured, being left on site waiting to die but he didn’t die. Only when he fell into a coma, his pulse stopped that he was brought to an emergency.

The interrogation conclusion mentioned he was injured but did not explain how he was injured and the extent of his injuries.

The indictment completely ignored Mr. Hieu’s injuries and these facts.

11/ The circumstance surrounding the deaths of three police officers by falling into a hole must be verified

The indictment stated that the hole was situated between the houses of two defendants Le Dinh Hoi and Le Dinh Chuc.

Verification by way of a crime scene re-enactment is required in order to determine accurately whether the police officers fell into the hole by themselves by accident as they were not familiar with the location, or because they had been attacked by Mr. Le Dinh Chuc and other defendants.

12/ Too many contradictory details require a re-investigation especially a crime scene re-enactment

Given too many contradictory details that cannot be verified before the trial set on September 7, it is suggested that the Hanoi People’s Court return the case files to the investigation bureau to clarify these details, and especially to carry out a crime scene re-enactment in the presence of judicial bodies, defendants, lawyers, defendants’ families, etc.

13/ To summon individuals who are of direct relevance to the case

The people who are of direct relevance to the case should be required to attend as witnesses at the trial, including:

Widow Du Thi Thanh, the wife of killed Le Dinh Kinh. She is a witness and a damage-suffering party in the case.

Mrs. Nguyen Thi Duyen, the wife of defendant Mr. Le Dinh Uy

Policemen who were injured during the attack – as damage-suffering parties

Policeman/men who fatally shot Mr. Le Dinh Kinh and caused injuries to Mr. Bui Viet Hieu

14/ To allow the press, relatives, and public observers to attend the trial

In order to ensure the trial will be a democratic and open trial according to the Constitution and the law, the lawyers recommend the judges:

  • to allow the press, the relatives, and public observers to attend the trial
  • to ensure defendants and their legal representatives the right to present their cases, to defend and self-defend
  • to remind representatives of the People’s Procuracy that they must take part in cross-examination with the defending lawyers pursuant to the Criminal Procedure Code.

The undersigned, on behalf of 13 lawyers representing 21 defendants from Dong Tam village

1. Lawyer Ngô Anh Tuấn;
2. Lawyer Lê Văn Hoà;
3. Lawyer Đặng Đình Mạnh;
4. Lawyer Nguyễn Hà Luân;
5. Lawyer Lê Văn Luân;
6. Lawyer Hà Huy Sơn;
7. Lawyer Nguyễn Văn Miếng;
8. Lawyer Nguyễn Khả Thành;
9. Lawyer Ngô Ngọc Trai;
10. Lawyer Trương Chí Công;
11. Lawyer Dương Lê Ước An;
12. Lawyer Bùi Hải Quảng;
13. Lawyer Phạm Lệ Quyên.