The cassation review of the case of Ho Duy Hai, who was convicted of “murder” and “stealing property” 12 years ago, took place on the morning of May 6 in the Supreme People’s Court in Hanoi. At the end of 2014, Ho Duy Hai was nearly executed for his death sentence. The postponement of execution of the death penalty was only done one day earlier thanks to the intervention of President Truong Tan Sang after hearing the presentation by Hai’s lawyer Tran Van Tao.
The hearing is scheduled to last for three days, May 6-8, chaired by Supreme Court Chief Nguyen Hoa Binh.
Ho Duy Hai was not summoned to the hearing like the previous two trials because this was the hearing mainly on the case’s file but lawyer Tran Hong Phong, the main defense for Ho Duy Hai, was invited to attend.
A lot of strange things after the case, especially: 4 state officials involving in Hai’s case were suddenly killed, including 3 police officers and a senior procurator, who is a classmate of Hai’s aunt and the author of the strange message mentioned above.
What is the difference between a cassation and other court hearings?
According to the analysis of author Vo Van Quan in the Law on Journal, cassation is a special procedure to review judgments and decisions of courts that have taken legal effect but are protested against because there are serious violations of the law in resolving the case.
Cassation does not review the objective truths of the case. It only considers whether the presiding agency has errors in the process of investigation, prosecution or adjudication.
Earlier, in an interview with BBC News Vietnamese on November 4, lawyer Tran Hong Phong said that the best situation for Hai was the Supreme People’s Court issued a cassation review decision in the direction of cancellation, re-investigation. Later in the course of the investigation comes to the conclusion that there was no basis to accuse Hai or find another suspect.
Lawyer Phong said that there had been intentional “violations” and “wrongdoings” of the proceeding agencies at all stages of the case resolution process.
He said that at both hearings (both first instance and appeal) Hai complained that he is a victim of legal miscarriage. Based on the case file and the evidence gathered, lawyer Phong assessed that the conviction of Ho Duy Hai up to now is unfounded, which can lead to injustice and neglect of the crime.
Phong said the prosecution agencies ignored Hai’s alibi as a result of a fingerprint inspection. In addition, despite the fact that Hai was accused of using a knife and cutting board to kill the victim, the investigating agency did not seize such material evidence at the scene but let people buy knives and cutting boards at the market to “illustrate “for criminal behavior” of Hải. There are also many other ridiculous and contradictory points, as well as signs of falsifying case files.
Lawyer Phong said he went directly to verify and met many witnesses, including Mr. Dinh Vu Thuong, who the investigating authorities thought had seen Ho Duy Hai at the Post Office. But Mr. Thuong claimed that he only saw one young man and could not identify who was.
In addition, all information about Nguyen Van Nghi, the lover of one of two victims Hong, who was summoned and later released, was withdrawn from the case file, although he was considered a top suspect, still follow lawyer Le Hong Phong.
And Nguyen Thi Loan, Hai’s mother, told the BBC that, from the past 12 years, “from a simple and gentle country mother,” she became a “fierce” woman, leaving her 90-year-old mother at home “to call for justice” for Hai.
The progress of the Ho Duy Hai case was summarized by Lawyer Tran Hong Phong.
On the night of January 13, 2008, a murder case occurred at Cau Voi Post Office (Thu Thua District, Long An province). The victims were two female employees Nguyen Thi Anh Hong (22 years old) and Nguyen Thi Thu Van (21 years old) who were brutally murdered (cutthroat) in the area behind the stairs. At the scene, the investigation agency obtained many fingerprints of the suspected perpetrator. The agency summoned many suspects, including one named Nguyen Van Nghi, who was the lover of the victim Hong. But then all were released.
More than 2 months later, on March 21, 2008, Hai, a young man from about 2 km from Cau Voi Post Office was arrested.
Hai was then indicted and brought to trial for two allegations of “murder” and “robbery“. Both the first instance and the appeal hearings sentenced to death for Hai on murder.
According to allegations made by the proceedings, Hai used a knife and cutting board available at the Post Office to kill the two girls. The time to cause the crime is at 20:30 pm and witness Dinh Vu Thuong is the person who saw Hai present at the Post Office at 19h39 (right before the cause). However, at both hearings (first instance and appellate) Hai rejected the allegation.
According to lawyers who defend Ho Duy Hai, that the conviction of Ho Duy Hai up to now is unfounded, which can lead to injustice and neglect of the perpetrators. Specifically, the proceeding agencies ignored Hai’s alibi as a result of the fingerprint identification (the conclusion that the fingerprints at the scene did not match those of Ho Duy Hai). While this shows that the perpetrator is certain or at least at the scene there must be another person. On the other hand, despite the allegation that Hai used a knife and a cutting board to kill the two victims when investigating the scene, police did not capture any such material evidence. But only after catching Hai, they required the local servants to go to the market to buy knives and cutting boards to “illustrate” Hai’s “criminal behavior.” There are also many other ridiculous and contradictory points, as well as signs of falsifying case files.
After being sentenced to death, in prison Hai complained, outside her mother, Ms. Nguyen Thi Loan ran for a lawyer to make an application, petition for her children. During this period, there were three main lawyers, Nguyen Van Dat (who was Hai’s defender at previous hearings) and me and lawyer Tran Van Tao (former deputy director of the Ho Chi Minh City Police Department),” Lawyer Tran Hong Phong said.
Lawyer Phong said: “I myself in this process went directly to verify and met many witnesses, including Mr. Dinh Vu Thuong, who is supposed to have seen Ho Duy Hai at the Post Office. Mr. Thuong claimed that he only saw one young man and could not identify. This proves that the police investigation agency has fabricated the details that Mr. Thuong sees Ho Duy Hai. I also found it very unusual that all the information on Nguyen Van Nghi was removed from the case file, leaving only one word ‘Nghi’ in a bow. As the top suspect, the press published very detailed details when the case happened.
Accordingly, I have assisted Hai’s family, in turn, to request cassation procedures (since 2011), accusations against Nguyen Van Nghi (since 2015), and denounce false case files. The project (from 2017) was sent to the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuracy requested a cassation review and petitioned for Ho Duy Hai. (Note: to avoid misunderstandings, besides me, there is also a lawyer, Mr. Nguyen Van Dat, who has filed a request for cassation; and there may be other lawyers that I do not know.)
After nearly 12 years of persistent petitioning for children, finally on November 22, 2019, the Supreme People’s Procuracy decided to appeal to cassation. The analysis of the reasons for the cassation appeal mostly coincides with the analysis and recommendations of the lawyers.
Thus, the key legal issue, in this case, is to convict Hai, the investigation agency has to resolve the aforementioned contradictions or find new evidence to prove that Hai or someone else is the true culprit. Because this is a murder case, there must be a killer.
I think that the case against the cassation review is a combination of many reasons: firstly the pressure from the social networking community, the press, Hai’s family, and lawyers ( via the word) – the desire for justice, asymptotic justice; from notes of international organizations, the UN Human Rights Committee. Someone told me that maybe even from the political competition of senior officials and I did not exclude this possibility. In any case, the appeal of the Supreme People’s Procuracy is really good news.” Attorney Tran Hong Phong said.