Vietnam reviews child sexual abuse case after commuted sentence causes uproar

By Ha Nguyen   May 15, 2018 | 04:00 am PT
Vietnam reviews child sexual abuse case after commuted sentence causes uproar
Nguyen Khac Thuy, 78, is in court in Ba Ria-Vung Tau for child sexual abuse charges. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Khoa
Facebookers have gone mad after an appeal trial gave a man suspended sentence for molesting two girls.

Vietnam's judicial system is reviewing a sexual abuse case in which a man has become the public enemy after he won an appeal trial last week and received a suspended sentence for molesting two girls, then aged 6 and 11.

The country's supreme court said on Tuesday that it has asked the appeal court in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province, which neighbors Ho Chi Minh City, to retract and review the case.

Nguyen Khac Thuy, 78, was sentenced to three years in jail last November for committing "obscenity" against the girls in the apartment building where he lived. Police in Ba Ria-Vung Tau opened a criminal case in August 2016 after seven families filed complaints that Thuy had molested their daughters many times, allegedly since 2012.

But eventually he was convicted only for the act against two girls in 2014.

At the first trial, Thuy repeatedly pleaded not guilty, claiming he was framed, but eyewitnesses living in the building said they had seen Thuy making inappropriate advances toward many girls.

Thuy later appealed against the sentence. His lawyers said at the appeal trial last Friday that there was no clear evidence that the sexual abuse actually took place.

The court agreed to give him a commuted sentence, saying that he is an elderly suffering from health issues, is a member of the Communist Party with contribution to Vietnam’s banking sector. Thuy was a former senior banker.

The announcement of an 18-month suspended sentence has sparked widespread outrage among Vietnamese social media users. An online petition was made last Saturday to ask authorities to review the "unsatisfying" penalty. It has won more than 45,000 signatures as of Tuesday evening.

On Monday, the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs proposed that the country's supreme court and top prosecutors to reconsider the result of the second trial, saying Thuy’s crime was especially severe, and a suspended sentence shouldn’t be applied for this case.

“Why should we reduce his sentence just because he used to work for a bank, just because he is a member of the Party? And since he is an elder, he should have been a good example,” said Le Thi Nga, head of the legislative National Assembly’s Judicial Committee, during a government meeting on Monday.

In Vietnam, more than 8,200 cases of child abuse came to light between 2011 and 2015, including 5,300 cases of sexual abuse, according to official figures.

In most cases the perpetrators were people having authority over the children, like teachers, school security guards and relatives.

Experts said Vietnam has legal loopholes that prolong sexual abuse cases and even allow them to be buried. People usually complain about the lack of physical evidence and difficulties in collecting testimonies from victims, especially children.

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