Vietnamese authorities will now file murder charges against 25 villagers held since a deadly police raid in January on the Dong Tam commune outside Hanoi in which three police officers and a village leader died, sources said on Friday.
Another four meanwhile face charges of obstructing officers in the performance of their duty, sources said, citing recommendations contained in a 47-page report released by Hanoi police investigators and sent to lawyers on June 12.
Six of the 25 now charged under Article 123 of Vietnam’s Penal Code in the deaths of the three police officers killed during the raid have been identified as Le Dinh Cong, Bui Viet Hieu, Nguyen Van Tuyen, Le Cinh Chuc, Le Dinh Doanh, and Nguyen Quoc Tien.
The four charged with obstructing officers on duty were identified as Le Dinh Hien, Bui Viet Tien, Nguyen Thi Dung, and Tran Thi Phuong, sources said.
Dong Tam village elder Le Dinh Kinh, 84, was shot and killed by police during the Jan. 9 assault that involved about 3,000 security officers and was the latest flare-up of a long-running dispute over a military airport construction site about 25 miles south of Hanoi.
Conclusions regarding Le’s death contained in the police investigators’ report raise questions that must now be clarified, said defense lawyer Ha Huy Son, speaking to RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
First is the finding by police that Le had been killed by gunshots fired from behind, Ha said.
“Photos and videos posted on social media actually show that he was killed by two shots fired into his chest, just to the left of his heart,” he said.
Also unclear from the police investigators’ report is why the police raid on Dong Tam commune’s Hoanh hamlet was launched at all, and why DNA identifications were not made of the three police officers who died in the assault, reportedly by burning, Ha said.
Also missing from the report is any mention of the wounding by gunfire of one of Ha’s clients, Bui Viet Hieu, who was struck by bullets in the abdomen and foot during the Jan. 9 assault, Ha said.
Though official reports said that villagers had assaulted police with grenades and petrol bombs in the early morning raid, a report drawn from witness accounts and released seven days later by journalists and activists said that police had attacked first during the deadly clash.
Police blocked off pathways and alleys during the attack and beat villagers “indiscriminately, including women and old people,” the report said, calling the assault “possibly the bloodiest land dispute in Vietnam in the last ten years.”
While all land in Vietnam is ultimately held by the state, land confiscations have become a flashpoint as residents accuse the government of pushing small landholders aside in favor of lucrative real estate projects, and of paying too little in compensation.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Huy Le. Written in English by Richard Finney.