Appeal Hearing of Six Dong Tam Land Petitioners Scheduled on March 8-10, Little Hope for Reduced Sentences

Dong Tam land petitioners in their first-instance hearing in last September and five detained HRDs

Defend the Defenders, February 25, 2021


The Higher People’s Court in Hanoi will hold the appeal hearing on March 8-10 for six land petitioners from Dong Tam commune who were convicted of “murders” and “resisting on-duty state officials” at the first-instance hearing in mid-September last year.

Some land petitioners’ lawyers have received a notice from Vietnam’s Supreme People’s Court with the content above while other attorneys and the land petitioners’ families have yet received such kind of document from the court, Defend the Defenders has learned.

Accordingly, Mr. Le Dinh Cong and Mr. Le Dinh Chuc appealed for their death penalty while Mr. Le Dinh Doanh appealed for his life imprisonment. Cong and Chuc are sons of late Dong Tam communal leader Le Dinh Kinh who was shot to death by Vietnam’s security forces during the raid of about 3,000 riot policemen in the commune in the early hours of January 9 last year. Doanh is Mr. Kinh’s grandchild. The trio were convicted of pouring gasoline and burned three police officers and causing their death although there is no solid evidence for their attack and the death of the officers.

Mr. Bui Viet Hieu and Mr. Nguyen Quoc Tien, who were convicted of murders and sentenced to 16 years and 13 years in prison, respectively, as well as Ms. Bui Thi Noi, who was sentenced to six years in prison for “resisting on-duty state officials” also appealed for their imprisonment sentences.

Talking to Radio Free Asia (RFA), Saigon-based lawyer Dang Dinh Manh, who provides legal assistance for four out of the six land petitioners, said he continues to demand for re-investigation because the original investigation had many mistakes and shortcomings.

Many political observers said that there is a little hope for the land petitioners to have lighter sentences or be freed after the appeal hearing since the conservative figures of the regime remain in the country’s leadership for the next five years after the 13th National Congress of the ruling Communist Party which ended on February 1. General Secretary cum President Nguyen Phu Trong, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, and Minister of Public Security, who were responsible for the bloody attack in Dong Tam in early January last year, were re-elected to the party’s Politburo while Chief of the Supreme People’s Court Nguyen Hoa Binh was elected to the Politburo, the most powerful body of the regime.

In its response to the UN’s Office of High Commissioner on Human Rights on February 4 regarding the arbitrary detentions of five human rights defenders Pham Doan Trang, Can Thi Theu, Nguyen Thi Tam, Trinh Ba Phuong, and Trinh Ba Tu who were arrested and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” due to their supports to Dong Tam land petitioners and reports about the bloody raid in the commune, Vietnam’s communist regime affirmed that Dong Tam land petitioners were responsible for the incident and the five human rights defenders were investigated not for their activism but their violations of the country’s law.

Ms. Trang was arrested on October 6 last year, a few hours after the 24th annual human rights dialogue between the US and Vietnam while the four remaining activists were detained on June 24 of the same year. All of them have been held incommunicado since their arrests.

According to a notice of the People’s Court of Hoa Binh province, the case files of Mrs. Can Thu Theu and her son Trinh Ba Tu have been handed over to the court after the province’s Police Department completed the investigation in the case.