Prisoner of the Century: “The court is playing with me by asking for receipts of damage”

By Phuoc Tuan, Lam Le   April 22, 2016 | 02:08 am PT
Huynh Van Nen was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1999 and spent nearly 17 years in prison before his acquittal last year. On April 11, he and his family filed a lawsuit asking for VND18 billion ($800,000) in compensation.

On April 22, Nen submitted a letter to Binh Thuan province People’s Court explaining why he could not provide the required receipts as proof of damage for his lawsuit.

“When I was in prison for crimes I didn’t commit, my family sold our land, strongly believing that I’d be freed, but without knowing that we would have to keep all the receipts for all these years to later submit them to the court after my acquittal.”


Prisoner of the Century Huynh Van Nen. Photo by Phuoc Tuan

Nen’s father Truyen and teacher Nguyen Than traveled across the country for years calling for his release. There’s no way to calculate how much is enough or where to get the receipts from. His wife and children had to spend a lot of money and sell their assets to visit and support him in prison.

“These losses are measured in honor, dignity, assets and the mental well-being of an entire family; three generations of my family. Where can we get receipts for such things,” he said.

Nen said Binh Thuan People’s Court is “playing with him and his family” by asking for the receipts. “Nobody should have to put a price on his life, the life of his father and children and repercussions for three generations of his wife’s family just to receive compensation money. If the court refuses to consider the compensation for two false charges just because there are no receipts, then that’s indeed unfair. I hope the court will reconsider the matter,” he said.

Judge Tran Thi Thien Huong of Binh Thuan People’s Court explained the Law on State Compensation Liability and asked Nen to submit additional documents as stipulated by law.

Nen is dubbed Prisoner of the Century for being the only person in Vietnam falsely charged for two counts of murder.

On May 15, 1998, Nen was arrested for allegedly murdering Le Thi Bong and stealing two of her gold rings in Binh Thuan province. Seven months later, Nen and nine relatives became suspects in a case known as “cashew garden” during which Duong Thi My was murdered in 1993. The latter case was dropped as police failed to find conclusive evidence. Nen’s nine relatives received nearly VND1 billion in compensation but Nen didn't as he was serving a prison sentence.

In August the following year, Nen was sentenced to two years imprisonment for damaging property and life imprisonment for murder and robbery. On October 23, 2000, Nen appealed but was rejected by the court a year later. Only after police found Bong's actual murderer was Nen acquitted and subsequently released from prison on October 22, 2015 after serving nearly 17 years of his life sentence.

Upon his release, Nen received an official apology from Binh Thuan People’s Court, but so far, no compensation. Subsequently, Nen wrote a letter to the Supreme People’s Procuracy of Vietnam demanding criminal proceedings be taken against 14 police, procuracy and judicial officers for gross negligence.

The Investigation Agency of the Supreme People’s Procuracy has worked with Nen's father Truyen, eight of his relatives and Nguyen Phuc Thanh, whose letter revealed Bong's true murderer and led to Nen’s acquittal.

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