Wrongfully imprisoned man demands $4.3 mln in compensation

By Hai Duyen   April 20, 2019 | 07:25 pm PT
A Saigonese has asked the authorities to pay him for physical and mental damage he had suffered from 390 days in jail 24 years ago.
Falsely accused Chu Quang Hung and Nguyen Van Tan, Vice President of The Peoples Procuracy of HCMC. Photo by Hai Duyen.

Falsely accused Chu Quang Hung (L) and Nguyen Van Tan, vice head of the People's Procuracy of HCMC. Photo by VnExpress/Hai Duyen

The People's Procuracy of Ho Chi Minh City on Friday held a public ceremony to apologize to Chu Quang Hung, who was wrongly imprisoned for 390 days for a crime he did not commit.

The apology came 24 years after the wrongful conviction and imprisonment.

Nguyen Van Tan, vice head of the People's Procuracy of HCMC, said the wrongful conviction of Hung was caused by the mistakes and negligence of judicial authorities. The people's procuracy will also fulfill Hung’s other demands, including publicizing the apology on media and compensating for damage in accordance with the law, he said.

"This is rather late and cannot make up for the damage you and your family have experienced. But we hope that it will partly relieve the pain that you have suffered for a long time and soon stabilize your life with your family," Tan told Hung and asked local authorities to assist Hung in exercising his civil rights.

However, Hung firmly announced that he "will not accept a mere apology." He wanted a compensation of "VND1 for his honor and VND99 billion ($4.26 million) for the physical and mental damage that he and his family have suffered" for the last 24 years.

The procuracy has not revealed the amount it will offer him.

Tan said the public apology was the first thing to be done while the compensation amount is waiting for approval from higher levels.

In 1994, Hung, then 47, sold a house in HCMC's District 5 to a man named Nam. Conflicts arose from the deal, leading to Hung filing a lawsuit against Nam. A district court opened the trial several times, but it kept being postponed because the defendant never showed up.

In November 1995, Hung was arrested for "obtaining others’ property by fraud." The case was later transferred to another court, but it was not accepted there for lack of information. Hung was released in December 1996 after one year imprisonment, but was banned from leaving his residence.

In 2005, the People's Procuracy of HCMC suspended the investigation because it decided that the case did not constitute a crime and transactions in the sale were determined to be civil in nature.

The HCMC People's Court discovered same year that judge Nguyen Lam had directly intervened in the purchase and the case, resulting in an unjust conviction. Lam was later reprimanded and did not get reappointed to the court.

Lam admitted to his wrongdoing, saying he was upset by the financial loss suffered by his relative, Nam, and decided to intervene.

Apart from Lam, seven other officials were also reprimanded. The investigator of the case was demoted.

In 1999, police, the HCMC People's Procuracy and the HCMC People's Court worked with Hung in turn, informing him of the injustice and delivered an apology with the expectation that he would "sympathize" with the situation.

Hung did not concur, saying the handling of the situation was not strict and suggested that those involved be treated as criminals. He wanted a public apology and compensation for the pain he and his family suffered.

Over the years, Hung has submitted dozens of petitions to the Law Committee of the National Assembly, the Supreme People's Procuracy and the Supreme People's Court.

Hung is not an isolated case.

In 1998, Huynh Van Nen of Binh Thuan Province was falsely imprisoned for life - the first and only person in Vietnam’s judicial history to be wrongfully charged with two murders.

He was released 17 years later and received a public apology from the People’s Court of Binh Thuan after they found the real murderer. Nen was finally compensated with VND10 billion ($431,000) after seven turns of negotiations with the court, VND7 billion less than his original demand.

In 1990, a mother and two sons in Dien Bien Province were wrongfully convicted for murder of their father. While the mother Dang Thi Nga, then 51, did not have to serve jail time, her two sons did and were only released 28 months later, following a termination of the case and a request from the court to reinvestigate.

After years of requesting an acknowledgement of the false verdict, in 2017, Nga’s family finally received an apology from the People’s Court of Dien Bien Province.

The family was relieved, but the unsolved case of the father’s death still burdens their hearts. One of the jailed sons fell ill due to the immense stress caused by the conviction and passed away.

The court only offered Nga’s family a compensation of VND3 billion ($129,000), one-sixth the VND18 billion that the family had asked for.

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