Vietnamese Activists Facing Death Refuse to Plead for Amnesty, Asserting Innocence
RFA | 2021-03-29
Two Vietnamese land-rights activists facing the death penalty after being convicted for their roles in a deadly clash with police last year at the Dong Tam commune outside Hanoi are refusing to ask for amnesty in the case, saying the move would amount to a confession of their guilt.
Le Dinh Chuc and Le Dinh Cong, who were sentenced to death on Sept. 14, 2020, had been urged by prison officials to appeal directly to Vietnam’s president for amnesty, which would have seen their sentences reduced to life terms, Cong’s daughter-in-law Nguyen Thi Duyen told RFA at the weekend.
“Both my father and my uncle [Le Dinh Chuc] said that prison officers had advised them many times to submit a request for amnesty, but that they had refused to do so,” Duyen said, following a March 26 visit with family members to the Hanoi Police Detention Center No. 2.
Duyen said that Chuc told family members an application for amnesty would mean an admission of guilt in the case.
“Uncle Chuc said that our family members should not cry or grieve, as he and my father-in-law would declare their innocence until the end,” she said.
On March 9, an appellate court in Hanoi upheld the sentences conferred on Sept. 14, 2020 by a lower court on six land-rights activists involved in the deadly clash at Dong Tam commune, including the death sentences imposed on Cong and Chuc.
In the Jan. 9, 2020 early-morning raid on the village by 3,000 security officers intervening in a long-running dispute over a military construction site about 25 miles south of the capital, Hanoi, village elder Le Dinh Kinh, 84, and three police officers were killed.
Sentenced to death
Le’s sons Le Dinh Chuc and Le Dinh Cong were both sentenced to death for murder in connection with the deaths of the three officers who were killed in the clash when they were attacked with petrol bombs and fell into a concrete shaft while running between two houses.
They were among a group of 29 villagers tried for their role in the incident. Other punishments handed out by the court included a life sentence and other sentences ranging from six years to 15 months of probation.
Both Cong and Chuc appeared healthy during the March 26 family visit, but Cong became emotional when he saw his grandchildren, Duyen told RFA, adding that her father-in-law continued to assert his innocence of the charges against him.
“He said that if he had actually murdered anyone, he would have been obsessed by feelings of guilt while he was held in solitary confinement in the jail, but that he hadn’t been troubled by feelings like these at all,” Duyen said.
“Neither our family members nor any other Dong Tam people killed anyone either,” she said.
Le Dinh Kinh’s widow Du Thi Thanh was barred at first by guards from seeing her two sons during the March 26 visit because she had not brought her identification card, but was finally allowed to visit briefly with Chuc once his meeting with other family members ended, Duyen said.
While all land in Vietnam is ultimately held by the state, land confiscations have become a flashpoint as residents accuse the government of pushing small landholders aside in favor of lucrative real estate projects, and of paying too little in compensation to faming families displaced by development.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Chau Vu. Written in English by Richard Finney.