Vietnamese man demands $880,000 for decade on death row under wrongful murder conviction

Han Duc Long (R) with his wife and grandchild. Photo by VnExpress/Bao Ha

‘I was sentenced to death so every day in prison was like my last, and I could never get a good night’s sleep.’

A Vietnamese man who was cleared of murder and rape last month has demanded VND20 billion ($881,340) in compensation from the supreme court for damages he and his family incurred during his 11 years in prison.

Han Duc Long, 58, from the northern province of Bac Giang, filed the request to the Supreme People’s Court in Hanoi on Tuesday.

Long said the ordeal has affected his family’s income, caused physical and mental damage to him and his family and disrupted his children’s education, while leaving his family to suffer contempt from their neighbors.

“I was sentenced to death so every day in prison was like my last, and I could never get a good night’s sleep,” he said.

He was arrested in October 2005, four months after the rape and murder of a five-year-old girl was reported in his village.

Investigators named him the prime suspect after accusations were made by a local woman and her daughter that Long had raped both of them before.

Long confessed that he had raped and killed the child, but later was adamant that his confession was extracted under duress.

During his trial in 2007, he pleaded not guilty. The court ruled otherwise and sentenced him to death. Over the years, he continued to challenge the conviction. Three appeal trials failed to clear his name, but no execution date was set.

His wife refused to give up and continued fighting for justice. The farmer said her husband was innocent because she was with him at the time of the crime, an alibi that she mentioned again and again in letters sent to various agencies almost every month.

In 2014, the Supreme People’s Court ordered a fresh investigation, but Long remained in prison over the next two years as investigators reopened the case.

The man came home last December after Bac Giang prosecutors decided all charges against him should be dropped and asked that he be released.

The Supreme Court apologized to him publicly at a ceremony held a month ago, but that was disrupted after just minutes when the family of the victim burst in and demanded that authorities find the real killer.

They pulled down the banner and threw slippers at the court’s representative, causing chaos that prevented Long and his wife from taking the stage.

Miscarriages of justice have grabbed headlines in Vietnam in recent years.

The most recent data released by Vietnam’s top legislature, the National Assembly, in mid-2015 showed that at least 71 people were wrongfully charged or convicted in the country from October 2011 to September 2014.

Most of the cases involved murder, robbery and child rape.

Bac Giang itself raised questions about its justice system in late 2013 when Nguyen Thanh Chan, now 56, was released after serving 10 years in prison on wrongful murder charges. His wife’s investigation reportedly forced the real murderer to turn himself in.

Chan also alleged that police officers had threatened to kill him and forced him to plead guilty. He received VND7.1 billion in compensation from the Supreme Court in 2015.


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