The wives of a jailed Vietnamese soldier-turned farmer and his brother who staged armed resistance against a move to evict them from state land have launched a campaign to free them of attempted murder charges ahead of their trial next week.
Doan Van Vuon, 50, and his brother Doan Van Quy, 47, laid land mines and used homemade shotguns to repel security forces which came to repossess their farmland in the northern port city of Hai Phong’s Tien Lang district on Jan. 5 last year. Four policemen and two soldiers suffered serious injuries.
The two men—along with their brothers Doan Van Sinh, 46, and Doan Van Ve, 39— are facing attempted murder charges in a trial that will take place from April 2-5 at the Hai Phong Court. All four have been detained since the incident took place last year.
Vuon’s wife Nguyen Thi Thuong, 43, and Quy’s wife Pham Thi Hien, 31—both of whom are facing charges for protesting during the eviction, but who are not in detention—on Monday posted an open letter on several activist and “pro-justice” blogs maintaining their husbands’ innocence.
“After a careless and biased investigation process, our family members are now being prosecuted for the crime of murder. In fact, they were simply trying to protect the assets that we earned by working hard all of our lives,” the letter read.
“What they did only serves as a warning signal—an alarm—for society about the bureaucratic decisions made by local governments which lead to the suffering of people like us everywhere,” it said.
The two women expressed their gratitude to the blogging and activist communities for backing their cause and asked for their continued support during their husbands’ trial.
“During the upcoming trial we would like to continue receiving your support, just like during the past year, so that we can be stronger on our path seeking justice,” the letter said.
“Justice for our family means justice for everybody.”
Speaking to RFA’s Vietnamese Service, Thuong invoked the name of Vietnam’s revolutionary founder Ho Chi Minh in declaring her family’s right to protect its property.
“We maintain our position that we are not guilty and that all what we did was protect our belongings,” Thuong said.
“According to the words of Uncle Ho, ‘When the enemy comes to your house, even the women fight’,” she said.
“These were people who came to rob us of our land, and our defensive response was only normal. If this had happened to anyone else they would have done the same thing.”
Thuong said that family members have not been allowed to see the four brothers in prison, but that their lawyers met with them on Tuesday.
She said the lawyers informed her that the health of the four men was good, but that they worried about their wives and children, and about whether they would receive a fair trial.
Lawyer Nguyen Viet Hung said he is unsure of what to expect from the Hai Phong Court next week.
“I can’t predict anything about the trial right now, but I hope that justice will be served. On March 26, we lawyers saw our clients in prison … in general everything is OK,” he said.
“There are things we need to explain at the trial and things we need to recommend [to the court], but we can’t make any official announcement of our plan to the media.”
The case of Vuon and his brothers defending their farm, which has been widely reported in the Vietnamese media, has highlighted the plight of people grappling with forced government land takeovers under one-party communist rule.
During the incident in January 2012, authorities were stunned by the resistance and sent reinforcements comprising about 100 police officers and soldiers wearing bulletproof vests and riot gear to repossess the 19-hectare (47-acre) leased swampland which Vuon had converted into a seafood farm.
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, who has taken a personal interest in the case, called the repossession and forced eviction “illegal” in February last year and asked officials to expedite Vuon's trial and reduce the charges against him.
Dung also warned officials to ensure that evictions and land seizures are carried out "in strict accordance with the law."
Two members of the local authorities were suspended in February last year for their role in the eviction.
Reported by Tien Nguyen for RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.