Vietnamese authorities on Sunday postponed the execution of a man convicted of the rape and murder of a teenage girl, meanwhile beating and harassing relatives and supporters seeking confirmation and details of his reprieve, sources said.
Le Van Manh, 32, had been scheduled to die on Monday, Oct. 26, after years of appeals of his conviction, which was based on a confession he later said had been made under torture by police.
“According to the media, there has been a postponement of the execution,” Manh’s mother Nguyen Thi Viet told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Monday.
“We have not received any official notice,” Viet said, adding, “We are going to the court to ask for the papers.”
“We went to some offices [in Hanoi] to ask for the papers, but they kept telling us to go to different places,” she said.
Le Van Manh was charged in 2005 with the rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl in Vietnam’s northern Thanh Hoa province.
After first confessing to the crime, he later withdrew his statement, saying he had been beaten into confessing by police.
While seeking information on her son’s case, Viet and activists accompanying her were followed and assaulted by security officers and unidentified persons apparently recruited by police, Viet said.
“People followed us, waiting for an opportunity to harass us,” she said.
“We were carrying banners asking for support, and police and security people came and attacked me, pushed me into a vehicle, took me to a police station, and kept me there until the afternoon.”
“They told me I would have to stay there until I ‘cooperated’ with them,” she said.
Friends and supporters of Manh and his family, many saying they had also suffered injustice from authorities, were also attacked, with one taken into custody at an unknown location, one woman activist said.
“On the afternoon of Oct. 26, some activists who went with Nguyen Thi Viet were also detained by police,” the activist, Nguyen Thi Thuy, said.
“Thuy Nga, some other victims of injustice, and I went with [Le Van] Manh’s mother to 46 Ly Thuong Kiet, a government office, to ask about the decision to postpone the execution, but an overwhelming number of people attacked us,” she said.
Referred to another address for information, “police sent scores of people to harass us there” as well, she said.
Thuy Nga, a member of the Vietnamese Women for Human Rights advocacy group, was then detained, she said.
“They took Thuy Nga away, and we do not know where she is now,” she said.
'Nothing to lose'
“We fight because we have nothing to lose,” activist Can Thi Theu told RFA, adding that many of the supporters accompanying Viet had lost homes and land to unfair treatment by authorities.
“But we want the public and the international community to raise their voices, too,” she said.
“We want to see human rights groups intervene and pressure the government of Vietnam to respect human rights.”
“Only then can our fight have a victorious end, and we can have what we ask for,” she said.
Le Van Manh’s execution, if allowed to proceed, would be “a denial of the right to life constituting a serious violation of Vietnam’s international legal obligations,” Kingsley Abbott, international legal adviser at the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists said in an Oct. 26 statement.
Allegations of torture in Manh’s case must be “promptly and effectively” investigated, he added.
“If proven, the perpetrators must be brought to justice and Le Van Manh must be provided remedies and reparation in line with international law and standards,” he said.
Reported by Gia Minh for RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Hanh Seide. Written in English by Richard Finney.