Vietnamese death-row inmate Ho Duy Hai won an apparent reprieve in his long-running case Monday with a National Assembly announcement that its specialized agencies would review irregularities in a sentence that caused a rare public uproar in the communist country.
National Assembly General Secretary Nguyen Hanh Phuc told a press briefing that the assembly’s standing committee assigned the agencies to study and propose solutions for the decades-long murder case, according to state media reports that did not provide exact quotes.
The Supreme People’s Court recently rejected a request by the Supreme People’s Procuracy to reinvestigate the case.
Ho was arrested in March 2008 and convicted nine months later of plundering property and murdering two female postal employees in Long An Province. The People’s Court of Long An province sentenced him to five years for the theft, and gave him the death penalty for the murders.
After the procuracy’s request to Vietnam’s highest court fell through, Ho’s family last week successfully petitioned two deputies in the National Assembly to request its oversight in the case.
In the request, the deputies cited five specific irregularities in the case that they believe should be reexamined.
At Monday’s press conference, Nguyen said that the case was very serious and complicated, and has captured the attention of both the Vietnamese people and the international community over the past 13 years.
The secretary added that in 2013, a high-level monitoring delegation of the National Assembly supervised inquiries into the possibility that criminal, litigation and personal damage laws had been improperly applied to the case. The committee filed a report with the assembly at that time, along with the Supreme People’s court.
The secretary pointed out that all the relevant agencies had done their due diligence, but public opinion remained skeptical that Ho had been given a fair trial.
Nguyen said that per the deputies’ requests, the assembly will consider the case in depth and its agencies will propose a solution in accordance with the law.
The case so far
Observers have pointed to several procedural errors in Ho’s case, including that it was largely based on a confession that he later recanted, saying he had been forced to do so by police during his detention.
Additionally, prosecutors lacked crucial evidence, as no time of death for the two victims was ever established, fingerprints at the crime scene did not match Hai’s, and the murder weapons were misplaced by the forensic team.
London-based rights group Amnesty International has cited Ho’s mother as saying that he was tortured in prison, citing his deteriorating health and loss of weight.
Ho was originally set to be executed on Dec. 5, 2014 but was granted a stay a day earlier by then-President Truong Tan Sang.
In February 2015, the National Assembly’s Committee on Judicial Affairs declared after a reinvestigation into the case that during both the initial trial and the appeal, there had been “serious violations of criminal procedural law.”
The committee urged that the case be reviewed on appeal, but in Dec. 2017, Long An province’s procuracy pushed for execution.
In November last year, Amnesty International sent a petition with 25,000 signatures to President Trong calling for Ho’s acquittal.
Between August 2013 and June 2016, Vietnam executed 429 people, while 1,134 people were given death sentences between July 2011 and June 2016, according to government figures released in 2018.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Huy Le. Written in English by Eugene Whong.