Vietnam sentences former police captain to 2 years over traffic spat

A court in Vietnam Friday sentenced a former police captain to two years in prison for “resisting law enforcement,” after he argued with police when they towed his car, his lawyer told RFA.

Police in the southern economic hub Ho Chi Minh city impounded former Capt. Le Chi Thanh’s car on April 14, 2021, for occupying a lane reserved for two-wheeled vehicles. After words were exchanged, the police arrested him.

“In my opinion that is a really harsh sentence,” his lawyer Dang Dinh Manh told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.

“His actions were not exactly resisting against the police officers. The police were going to tow his car to the station, and he merely made suggestions and proposals to protect the condition of the car and keep it safe. So the charge is unjustifiable,” Manh said.

Le Chi Thanh had been an officer at Han Tan Prison in the southern coastal province of Binh Thuan. He was fired in July 2020 for accusing his supervisor of corruption. Afterwards he became an active social media user, often livestreaming videos that monitored traffic police.

While Thanh was detained, he told his lawyer that he was being tortured.

“They said that he did not address the guards appropriately and tried to harm himself, so they had to ‘put him by himself,’” Manh said.

Thanh is now facing another charge of “abusing democracy and freedom to infringe on State interests” under article 331 of Vietnam’s penal code. Human rights activists say that section of the law is often used by authorities to stifle dissent.

Translated by An Nguyen. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

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