Leader of failed terror attack on HCMC airport gets 16 years in prison

By Hai Duyen   December 27, 2017 | 08:24 am PT
His group tried to set fire to Tan Son Nhat Airport using petrol bombs under instructions from an overseas 'subversive' group.

A court in Ho Chi Minh City on Wednesday sentenced a group of 15 Vietnamese to 5-16 years in prison for “terrorism to oppose the people’s administration.”

While initially scheduled to end on Friday, the trial concluded early as the judges quickly found the group guilty of attempting to use petrol bombs to set fire to Tan Son Nhat International Airport last April. The attempt was however botched and there were no casualties.

Dang Hoang Thien, 24, was determined to be the group's leader and received a 16-year sentence. Nguyen Duc Sinh, 32, who was found responsible for burning down a police’s warehouse in early April in another of the group's plots, causing nearly VND1.3 billion ($57,300) in damages, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Thien and Sinh's 13 accomplices, including those who personally planted the petrol bombs at Tan Son Nhat Airport, were sentenced to 5-14 years in prison. All 15 defendants would also be put on probation for 3-5 years once their jail terms end.

While not a part of the group, Thien's girlfriend Le Thi Thu Phuong received a suspended sentence of 18 months in prison for failing to report the crimes.

Dang Hoang Thien was determined to be the leader behind a plot to set fire to Tan Son Nhat Airport. Photo by VnExpress/Hai Duyen.

Dang Hoang Thien was determined to be the leader behind a plot to set fire to Tan Son Nhat Airport. Photo by VnExpress/Hai Duyen.

According to the indictment, Dao Minh Quan and Pham Lisa, who led an overseas "subversive" group, hatched the terrorist plot. They have not been arrested yet and are currently internationally wanted by Vietnam.

From 2016, Quan and Lisa used social media to reach out to many people in Vietnam to set up terrorist groups to “kill all, burn all, and destroy all,” Vietnamese prosecutors said.

Last April, Lisa instructed Thien and the other defendants to deploy petrol bombs at Tan Son Nhat Airport to sabotage the city's celebrations of its unification and victory over the Americans that led to the end of the Vietnam War on April 30, 1975.

On April 22, Ngo Thuy Truong Vy and Truong Tan Phat brought two petrol bombs inside paper boxes to the airport, leaving one at the parking lot and the other at the international terminal.

Thien eventually managed to ignite only one of the bombs, which sent passengers fleeing in panic. 

The other members of the group were also plotting different terrorist attacks across Vietnam, according to the indictment. Their targets included supermarkets in Saigon and residences of government leaders. They were also accused of staging protests outside the city’s Notre Dame Cathedral, investigators found. Vietnamese security forces foiled all these plots.

At the trial, four of the defendants denied charges made against them, but the court determined that there is enough evidence to find them guilty. The judges also concluded that while some of the defendants' testimonies are conflicting, they generally match with evidence gathered by investigators.

The remaining defendants, including Thien and Sinh, admitted to their crimes and some asked for leniency.

"Petrol bombs only burn and do not explode. I could harm others if I wanted to but I didn't," Thien said in his final statement. "I committed a crime and I admit to it. I won't ask to have my sentence reduced."

Meanwhile, Sinh apologized to the Communist Party, the State and the people for his actions. "I hope there would be more training and education for young people so noone would be beguiled and swayed by evil forces like me. Because of them, my family's in ruins," Sinh said. "I'm my family's breadwinner so I hope the panel could reduce the sentence for me."

Terrorist attacks are extremely rare in Vietnam.

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