14 Defence Lawyers Issue Joint Petition Regarding Dong Tam Case

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


Defend the Defenders, March 5, 2021


On March 2, a group of 14 lawyers defending Dong Tam land petitioners, issued a joint petition to the Higher People’s Court in Hanoi and other city’s judicial authorities regarding the Dong Tam case just six days before the appeal hearing of six land petitioners scheduled on March 8-10.

In the 31-page petition, the lawyers cited numerous issues requiring clarification and many infringements of legal proceedings by judicial authorities from the investigation phase onwards regarding the Dong Tam case.

They call for relevant authorities involved in the appeal hearing to pay attention to objective facts as cited that had not been given due attention to date.

They call for relevant authorities to allow family members of Dong Tam villagers who are defendants in the appeal hearing to sit in the court-room to observe court proceedings.

In addition, they suggest domestic media outlets and the foreign press be allowed in the court-room to report on the appeal hearing, so the public can be informed about this important case, and rumor of a show trial can be dismissed.

Meanwhile, veteran journalist Pham Dinh Trong, in his article on March 4 pointed out that regarding the bloody raid in Dong Tam commune in the early hours of January 9 last year, Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security had an attack plan named Plan 419A which proves that the ministry deployed about 3,000 riot policemen to launch the attack in which police officers shot to death the local communal leader Le Dinh Kinh and arrested around 30 land petitioners.

According to the police report, three police officers accidentally fell down a hole then died, purportedly by being burned to death. The official version of their deaths had been described in vague terms, the circumstances surrounding them were mysterious and defied logic. No investigation, no crime-scene enactment had been carried regarding their deaths, no scientific evidence had been provided.

Dong Tam villagers, who had no choice but to defend themselves against the sudden attack by 3,000 members of the armed forces, had been falsely accused and convicted of murders or “resisting on-duty state officials” by the People’s Court of Hanoi in the first-instance hearing in mid-September last year while the policemen who intentionally carried out the killing of Mr. Kinh – had never been subject to legal proceedings. The court sentenced two sons of Mr. Kinh, Le Dinh Cong and Le Dinh Chuc to death penalty, his grandson Le Dinh Doanh to life imprisonment, three others to between 12 years and 16 years on charge of murder, and seven other land petitioners to between three and six years in prison and the remaining 15 to between 15 months and five years of probation on charge of “resisting on-duty state officials.” Only six of them have appealed the court’s final decisions.

Former army colonel Trong said the Higher People’s Court in Hanoi which is assigned to carry out the appeal hearing needs to summon witnesses including police officers involved in the Dong Tam attack, especially those who had opened fire to kill Mr. Kinh and injured several others, the villagers who were on site, to prove that Dong Tam villagers in fact carried out the murders of the three policemen and resisted officers who were carrying out public duties.

Trong also said Vietnam’s authorities haves to conduct crime scene re-enactment. He said the three police officer who were reportedly killed during the attack were experienced and highly skilled officers so it is unlikely they could easily and simply fall down a hole and took no action to escape from the hole and had no moves when the villagers allegedly poured fuel down the hole where they stood and burned them alive. The veteran writer said crime scene re-enactment is necessary to prove the police’s version. He said that faced with a rain of police’s bullets, no villagers dared come out of their homes, yet they could mobilize each other, yelled out to each other, to bring over several fuel containers, one after another, down a small hole yet with enough oxygen to keep the fire burning continuously, long enough to turn the bodies of three policemen into charred remains.

Trong said the Dong Tam case was simply a land dispute between land users who were the villagers, and local authorities who try to grab their land to give to the army communication enterprise Viettel for building a property project.