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Vietnam suspends prison staff in wake of death row breakout

By Hoang Viet   September 17, 2017 | 07:23 pm PT
The two inmates spent months digging their way out with the guards apparently oblivious.

The Ministry of Public Security has suspended 13 guards and supervisors at a prison in Hanoi for letting two inmates who were cuffed break out a week ago.

They have been held accountable for the escape of death row inmates Le Van Tho, 37, and Nguyen Van Tinh, 28, who shared a cell equipped with surveillance cameras at T16 prison in Thanh Oai District on the capital's outskirts. Both were recaptured in nearby provinces over the weekend after around 400 police officers were deployed.

Tinh was sentenced to death in April for heroin trafficking. Tho got the death penalty in May for drug trafficking, murder and fraud.


Le Van Tho (L) and Nguyen Van Tinh in photos provided by the police

An investigation has found that Tho did most of the work by hiding a small piece of iron in his anus and using it to dig a hole in the wall of their cell over the space of several months. The two disguised the hole using rice mixed with toothpaste, they said.

Tho is also a professional locksmith and was able to uncuff himself before helping Tinh. They climbed out of the prison using a rope.

Investigators from the country’s top prosecution agency have already opened a criminal investigation, accusing guards and supervisors at the prison of “neglecting responsibility resulting in the escape of detainees”, which carries up to 10 years in jail.

In October 2001, 13 officers and guards at a prison in Hanoi also received punishments ranging from official warnings to demotions after two death row inmates escaped. One was recaptured after a week and the other after 17 days.

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