14 Hanoi officials charged over land dispute that held nation captivated

By Xuan Hoa   July 4, 2017 | 02:23 pm GMT+7
14 Hanoi officials charged over land dispute that held nation captivated
An area of land in Hanoi which has been caught under land dispute for years. Photo by VnExpress/Huyen My

The officials benefited from handing over military land to local residents, prosecutors say.

Prosecutors in Hanoi’s My Duc District have ratified charges against 14 former officials accused of wrongfully allocating land and causing public unrest that led to a dramatic hostage standoff in April.

The 14, who include top district land management and natural resources officials, commune leaders and the chief police officer, have been charged with abuse of power and dereliction of duty, "causing serious consequences”.

According to the indictment, the officials wrongfully assigned military land to several families in the district between 2002 and 2013 "for benefits". It stopped short of explaining what such "benefits" entailed.

They are expected to stand trial later this month.

Local authorities said a land dispute in the district has been lingering for years with some locals fighting for what they believe to be their land, but officials claim the land belongs to the military.

The situation became worse in February this year when military-owned telecoms giant Viettel started building an airport in the disputed area. Tensions reached a climax in April when villagers took 38 policemen and officials hostage following the arrest of four residents who refused to budge from the land.

It took a week to resolve the dramatic standoff, and Hanoi mayor Nguyen Duc Chung was forced to intervene and give the villagers his personal assurances that the problem would be solved fairly.

He also promised them that nobody would face prosecution over the dispute. Hanoi police last month launched a criminal investigation into what they call the “illegal” detention of policemen and officials.