Ex prosecutor gets jail term for molesting five-year-old girl

By Hai Duyen   August 23, 2019 | 01:25 am PT
Ex prosecutor gets jail term for molesting five-year-old girl
Nguyen Huu Linh (L), a retired deputy chief prosecutor of Da Nang, is outside the HCMC Court of District 4, August 23, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa.
The ex-prosecutor accused of molesting a girl in an elevator was handed an 18-month jail term Friday, but he appealed the ruling immediately.

The District 4 People’s Court in Ho Chi Minh City found Nguyen Huu Linh, a retired deputy chief prosecutor of Da Nang, guilty of "molestation of a person under 16."

Linh immediately appealed the ruling in a hand-written note handed to the court, and his lawyer confirmed it.

In another in-camera trial in June, the charges against him were dismissed for lack of evidence. The police had said the CTTV camera footage was not clear enough to make certain determinations. The footage showed Linh hugging and kissing the five-year-old girl in an apartment elevator in HCMC’s District 4 last April.

It is hard to tell if Linh, 61, who is now practicing as a lawyer, had put his left hand on the torso of the girl, the district’s police department concluded last month.

However, the District 4 court still upheld the prosecution’s case based on Linh's pattern of behavior. The fact that the police could not determine where his left hand went did not affect the basic grounds of the accusation, the court ruled.

Linh was visiting his son in District 4 on April 1 when he found himself in an elevator along with the five-year-old girl, whose identity has not been revealed to protect her privacy.

He was caught on CCTV camera wrapping his arms around her neck and kissing her. When she squirmed away from him, he grabbed her again and only let her go when the door opened. She ran away in panic.

The girl told her parents about the incident and they asked to see the elevator camera footage, which showed Linh had behaved inappropriately. The police said later that he had also touched her thighs.

When questioned by the police, Linh said he had merely "petted" the girl he thought was cute and did kiss her three times, but not with the intention of molesting her.

He rejected the charges filed against him saying there was not enough evidence to support them. His lawyer also demanded more evidence to support the charges.

Prosecutors had said at the trial of first instance that Linh's actions were dangerous to society but he should be given a commuted sentence since it was his first crime and he had been honest and remorseful during the investigation.

The trials, the judges’ conclusions and the police’s statements about insufficient evidence were happening in the context of repeated complaints by the public and experts that persons found guilty of rape and sexual harassment are being treated too leniently by Vietnam’s criminal justice system.

'My client’s innocent'

Linh's lawyer Tran Ba Hoc said he doesn't think Linh was guilty of molestation.

While the ex prosecutor had admitted he was wrong to hug and kiss the girl at the trial, Hoc said the indictment only said Linh had kissed the girl, and didn't clarify the action of "using hands to touch sexual organs" of the girl.

This is not sufficient to conclude he molested her, Hoc argued.

The girl's family has also asserted that Linh’s action was based on affection and had no bad intention, the lawyer said, adding that she was not harmed mentally or physically.

"Until this point, the victim's family has neither demanded compensation nor asked that Nguyen Huu Linh be dealt with by the law. To accuse him of molestation under 16 is forced, unconvincing and inappropriate in terms of what constitutes [molestation]," Hoc stressed, confirming that the defendant has appealed the court's decision.

Vietnam recorded 1,547 cases of child sex abuse in 2018, down slightly from a year earlier, according to the Ministry of Public Security. However, experts and officials have repeatedly said that actual numbers could be higher.

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