Vietnam frees 2 people arrested during the 2020 commune raid

One of them said he was tortured and forced to confess, like many of the others.
By RFA Vietnamese Service
2024.05.14
Vietnam frees 2 people arrested during the 2020 commune raid A street is seen blocked in Dong Tam during a land dispute protest on the outskirts of Hanoi, Vietnam April 20, 2017. The banner reads "The people of Dong Tam commune absolutely trust the policy and path of the Party and the State".
Reuters

More than four years after the 2020 violent police raid on Hanoi’s Dong Tam commune, two more people that were arrested that night were released from prison for good behavior.

Le Dinh Quan, 48, and Bui Van Tien, 45, had been in the fourth year of their five-year sentences, but were allowed to return home ahead of schedule. 

Quan told Radio Free Asia that during interrogations after his arrest, he was beaten into signing an inaccurate confession.

“They beat me a lot, breaking all of my front teeth,” he told RFA Vietnamese over the phone. “They used their limbs and batons to hit me. They knew how to torture, leaving no trace, but the victims still suffer. Now I still endure the pain and I am not healthy at all.”   

The two men were among 29 who were arrested on Jan. 9, 2020, during the attack on land rights protesters in the commune by 3,000 riot police.

The raid resulted in the death of Le Dinh Kinh, the commune’s elderly spiritual leader, and three officers. Of these, 19 were initially charged with murder, though for some, the charges were lowered to resisting police officers on duty.

Three others were released early in April.

Forced confessions

Two days before the attack, Quan had returned home from a distant province where he worked to celebrate Tet, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, with his family. 

When the police started to attack the village, he got out of his home to sound the alarm and then was arrested on the way to Kinh's home.

Quan said that at the detention facility, he was forced to admit that he was a member of the protesting faction and in charge of defending the land that was central to the dispute.

Investigators also coerced him into stating that Kinh had received money from overseas which he had shared with others, including himself.   

He said he did not know the names of the investigators beating him but said that almost all defendants in this case were beaten and forced to make statements. He saw others return to their cells with bruises and other signs of torture.

ENG_VTN_DONG TAM_05132024.2.jpg
This picture taken and released by the Vietnam News Agency on September 14, 2020 shows defendants involved in a land dispute attending a court trial in Hanoi. - Two villagers were sentenced to death for murder on September 14 by a Vietnam court, after a long-running land dispute spiralled into rare violence which left three police officers and a villager dead. (Vietnam News Agency/Vietnam News Agency/AFP)

During his trial, he denounced the police’s use of physical violence against him but the presiding judge ignored the accusations.   

Quan said that both he and his lawyers had strongly opposed the indictment. On the fifth day, his charges were surprisingly changed from “murder” to “resisting officers on official duty.”   

RFA called Hanoi Police and its Security Investigation Agency, using the numbers provided on their website to seek their comments on the allegations but no one answered the phone.   

In a recent interview with RFA, Dang Dinh Manh, one of the defense attorneys for the Dong Tam case, said that numerous defendants reported being tortured and forced to give coerced confessions during their pre-trial detention but the judging panel did not pay attention to their allegations.

In addition, Quan said, throughout his stay in prison, he was forced to do hard labor continuously without pay or adequate food.

He was released eight months early  for working diligently and adhering to prison rules, he said.

Six others who were initially charged with murder remain in prison. Of these, Le Dinh Cong and Le Dinh Chuc were sentenced to death.

Le Dinh Doanh has a life sentence. Bui Viet Hieu was sentenced to 16 years. Bui Quoc Tien was given 13 years and Nguyen Van Tuyen 12 years.

Translated by Anna Vu. Edited by Eugene Whong and Malcolm Foster.

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