Men compensated $115,000 after carrying murder charge for 39 years

By Pham Du   February 16, 2023 | 05:00 am PT
Two Vietnamese men have finally been compensated after they were wrongly accused of murder 39 years ago.

The People's Procuracy of the northern Vinh Phuc Province paid over VND1.068 billion (US$45,341) to Tran Ngoc Chinh, 82 on Wednesday and VND1.668 billion ($70,500) to a representative of Tran Trung Tham, Chinh's younger brother, who died already, on Thursday.

The compensation came after the People's Procuracy publicly apologized to the three men in October, 2019, admitting that there had been "mistakes leading to consequences nobody wanted." It means they
had had to carry the murder charge for as long as 39 years.

Chinh and Tham are two of three villagers arrested in 1980 for a murder in Van Thang Village in Dong Thinh Commune.

The three men and their families went through a long process of dozens of trials and negotiations to clear their names and receive the compensation.

In September 2020, Khong Van De, who is now 100, one of the three alleged murderers, was the first person to finalize negotiations with the People's Procuracy, accepting a compensation of VND1.167 billion, a sum that is much lower than the initial amount he had requested, which was VND5.285 billion.

Chinh and Tham initially demanded VND38 billion for mental and physical damages and for what their families had suffered all those years, but the procuracy did not agree. The men took the case to court, but the court decided that the two would get VND2.7 billion.

Tham's son said his family and Chinh did not agree with such a compensation but the case dragged on for far too long and so they just "accepted it to let things go."

From left: A family holds a portrait photo of Tran Trung Tham, Tran Ngoc Chinh, and Khong Van De at a court in  Vinh Phuc Province during an event held in October 2019 when the People’s Procuracy of Vinh Phuc Province publicly apologized the three men for wrongly accusing them of murder. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Du

(From L): A family members holds a portrait photo of Tran Trung Tham as she sits with Tran Ngoc Chinh, and Khong Van De at a court in Vinh Phuc Province in October 2019 when the province's People’s Procuracy publicly apologized the three men for wrongly accusing them of murder. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Du

On January 28, 1980, Chu Van Quan, the party chief of the village, was killed. A month later, Chinh was arrested and accused of the murder.

For almost eight months he was interrogated twice a day and tortured in order to get him to confess. He did not buckle. Then he was sent to a prison and put in a cell so small it could only fit one person and which had just a hole in the wall for light. His feet were tied at all times except during interrogations, during which he was beaten and asked to confess.

Chinh cannot remember how long this torture lasted, but after "being hurt physically and psychologically," he decided to admit to something he did not do, just to make the torture stop.

Worse still, the police also imprisoned Tham and two other men in the village, De and Nguyen Dinh Ky.

In October 1982, the procuracy issued a decision to stop investigations into Chinh and De as they had not committed the murder. Investigators had found that Ky was the culprit. Ky admitted to all the crimes after he was confronted with the evidence. On June 15, 1983, he was sentenced to life in prison.

Chinh and his neighbor De were allowed to go home on October 10, 1982, but Tham died in prison two months after being arrested.

Later it came to Chinh's attention that Ky, who was actually a policeman, had been having an illicit affair with a local woman, and that it was the mistress who had anonymously pointed a finger at him and the other accused men.

Ky had sought permission from higher authorities to join the Communist Party, but Quan, as the party chief of the village, had refused to sign the documents to approve his application, given his "unclean record."

The conflict escalated to the point where Ky lost control and killed Quan, following which his mistress wrote an anonymous letter to the police, asking them to investigate Chinh, his brother Tham, and De.

This was the same woman who later informed the police about what had actually happened.

The authorities have neither confirmed nor denied the details.

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