On the afternoon of September 10, the Dong Tam first-instance hearing went for the fourth day and the trial panel issued a notice with the content that the verdict would be pronounced at 3 pm on September 14.
A series of requests of the free defense lawyers for the defendants in Dong Tam village were ignored by the representatives of the Procuracy by saying “unnecessary.”
The Court finally ended the argument between the two sides defending lawyers and the representative of the People’s Procuracy of Hanoi when the procurators have not answered questions of the lawyer and the preceding judge did not dare to ask the procurators again,” according to the minutes of the trial posted by lawyer Ngo Anh Tuan on Facebook.
All proceedings and arguments were stopped by the end of the fourth day of the trial, while the trial panel’s original intention stated that it would proceed in 10 days.
While waiting for the verdict to be pronounced, here it is possible to summarize the 5 main points that the lawyers have argued, but the Procurators have answered half-heartedly and the court has almost rejected all of them. They are
(1) A request to summon a series of witnesses and related persons has been completely rejected. Lawyer Le Van Hoa proposed a long list of witnesses and related persons who were not summoned to the court to be present to the court to clarify the truth.
At the trial, lawyer Le Van Luan asked to question the representative of the Hanoi City Police who is present at the trial about Plan No. 419A of the Hanoi Police, mentioned in the case file, but the presiding judge rejected the request and said: Hanoi police did not participate in the proceedings because they were not involved, so the lawyers should not ask.
(2) Lawyers questioned the legality of the late-night attack under a 419A plan that was approved by the People’s Committee of Hanoi and the Ministry of Public Security. The court refused to clarify.
“This plan is the starting point for the tragic incident at Dong Tam in the morning of January 9, 2020, but it did not appear in the case file,” lawyer Le Van Luan said.
However, lawyer Nguyen Hong Bach, who is representing the families of three died police officers, announced in the trial that this document was classified as Top Secret.
“If this attack is legal then the people who caused the death of 3 security officers are criminals. In contrast, if this attack is illegal, combating intruders in the night is a legitimate act of self-defense,” writer Luu Trong Van said and his opinion also coincides with the opinion of lawyers defending Dong Tam land petitioners and many public opinions on Facebook.
Journalist Nguyen Thong said “What is the reason at night to bring powerful forces to surround the village, break into the people’s houses, violate the constitution, arrest people, shoot people, kill people without any court’s decisions. Killing people in the night is the work of the barbarians.”
The indictment said that the Police’s Midnight Plan to enter Hoanh village was intended to ensure security and order for the construction of the Mieu Mon airport fence, but this was just a blatant excuse because the Mieu Mon fence was completed at the end of 2019, and it is about 2 kilometers from Hoanh village.
(3) Because “Murder” is a serious accusation, leading to the death penalty, the lawyers made a request to carry out an experimental investigation to clarify the causes of the death of 3 police officers. The question is why the bodies were burned completely. However, the Procuracy’s representatives said it was not necessary and the court rejected this request of the lawyers.
“Because the well is closed, so the gasoline poured down from “many pots” can only evaporate up and burn above the well’s mouth, but not in the well. It’s like a folk game. The open flame creates a flame, but the mouth of the sprayer does not burn. Because there is no oxygen in his mouth.”
“So, with the petrol refueling scenario given in the indictment, there will be a large column of fire on the well’s mouth, 03 police falling in the well just suffocate but cannot be socialized. Because there is not enough oxygen to burn.”
Meanwhile, the conclusion of an investigation by the Hanoi police wrote that Mr. Le Dinh Chuc “took a can of gasoline and poured it into the hole,” and “used a tank to pour gasoline 3-5 times into the pit, poured it every 3-5 minutes…”
Lawyer Ha Huy Son gave an explanation.
In the conclusion of the investigation, the deaths of these three police officers were caused by “very severe heat asphyxia and generalized carbonation at very high temperature” and there was no background illness.
Law Nguyen Dang Manh also said that the cause of death based on the defendants’ testimony is not sufficient basis for conclusion.
“Where did gas suffocation occur, from where? Forensic examiners have not clarified this content. Burning gasoline, CO2 from 2 aerosols, equipment the police officers carried, the flares … all may be the cause of the deaths of the victims,” lawyer Manh gave an explanation.
(4) Many defendants have claimed that they were tortured for coersive confession. As least 19 defendants admitted that they were tortured during the pre-trial detention.
Mr. Le Dinh Cong said in the court that during the investigation period, he was beaten continuously for 10 days with a rubber baton by an investigator named Pham Viet Anh.
Ms. Bui Thi Noi also testified in court that when she was injured, police officers still beat her leg very painfully at the Mieu Mon Police Station for coersive confession.
Especially Mr. Le Dinh Chuc had a very big head injury, but Mr. Chuc gave a very strange testimony that he did not go to the hospital and that he did not know where his injury came from.
While the image of Mr. Chuc in court with a scar the size of 3 fingers, it seems that a piece of the skull has been gouged away. The indictment also states that he was shot in the head.
The reason why Mr. Chuc did not dare to tell the truth is a very big question.
Before the court, Mr. Bui Viet Hieu also objected and denounced that the Investigator prepared a testimony that forced him to speak for a video, but the court did not intend to consider this report.
Coercive confesion and corporal punishment are criminal offenses but occurred widely in Vietnam in recent times.
In the trial of 29 Dong Tam land petitioners, the Procuracy and the Court of the Council briefed that “there is no basis” to deny the lawyers’ request to investigate the allegations of being coerced, using the corporal punishment of the defendants.
(5) The request to probe the death of Mr. Le Dinh Kinh was also rejected by the court, while the Procuracy argued that “It was dark so Mr. Bui Viet Hieu could not see Kinh was shot to death so the testimony is not correct. According to the records in the case, Kinh had his opposition, so the shooting and death were in accordance with the law.” The representative of the Procuracy addressed Mr. Le Dinh Kinh by saying the word Kinh blankly, in a very uncultured, disrespectful way a deceased elderly person.
Regarding the wound on Mr. Hieu, the representative of the Procuracy just said “The cause is unknown.“
Regarding the accusation that Mr. Kinh fought back by holding a grenade was only a self-declaration of the police, there was no basis to prove it, while Bui Viet Hieu was the only witness of the death of Mr. Le Dinh Kinh has confirmed in court that Mr. Kinh did not have a grenade.
Until September 10, 2020, after more than 8 months of the January 9 incident, there was only 1 photo with 7 “grenade-like” objects given by VTV, Vietnam News Agency (VNA), and the state-controlled media as evidence for the so-called “Mr. Kinh holding a grenade against the police.”
During the trial of 29 land petitioners on Sept 9, the defendants confirmed that they had not given Mr. Le Dinh Kinh a grenade.
“I asked you again, according to our statistics, at least 11 grenades were collected at the scene and 1 grenade shell exploded (likely the 12th one).
Do you let the Trial Panel know that you are sure that you only asked to buy 10 grenades and in your house or Mr. Kinh’s house does not have any more grenades?” lawyer Ngo Anh Tuan asked Mr. Le Dinh Cong.
Mr. Cong replied “I affirm that my testimony is correct. I only asked to buy 10 grenades, besides, there was not anymore in my house and Mr. Kinh’s.”
When lawyer Tuan asked Mr. Bui Viet Hieu about his time with Mr. Le Dinh Kinh, he was interrupted by Presiding Judge Truong Viet Toan, who asked the lawyer not to ask questions related to Mr. Kinh because “the behavior of Mr. Kinh is not considered in this case.”