News / Asia

Vietnam Upholds Jail Term for 'Hero' Farmer

Doan Van Vuon (standing, 4th L), Doan Van Quy (standing, 2nd L) and Doan Van Sinh (standing, 3rd R) stand with policemen in front of the dock at a court during a verdict session in Hai Phong, April 5, 2013.
Doan Van Vuon (standing, 4th L), Doan Van Quy (standing, 2nd L) and Doan Van Sinh (standing, 3rd R) stand with policemen in front of the dock at a court during a verdict session in Hai Phong, April 5, 2013.
A Vietnamese shrimp farmer-turned-folk hero, after using homemade weapons to resist a forced land eviction, has lost his appeal against a five-year jail term for attempted murder.

Doan Van Vuon and five members of his family were arrested after they used makeshift weapons to protect their land from hundreds of police and soldiers who had come to carry out eviction orders by local authorities.

Seven police and soliders were wounded in the January 2012 incident at the Vuon family farm in Tien Lang district in Hai Phong province, 90 kilometers east of Hanoi.

His act of defiance, which is rare in Vietnam, caught the attention of the public and caused an outpouring of support, including a petition that was signed by thousands of people.

An appeals court upheld the sentences for Voun and three family members while reducing the sentences of two others.

Lawyer Tran Vu Hai told VOA the court’s decision was biased and the lawyers’ legal arguments were not taken into account at the appeals trial.

"Two vital factors were ignored at the trial. First, the judge did not assess the motivation and the cause of the incident. These defendants did not have any motivation to kill anybody. They just wanted to raise an alarm to attract public attention to their case. In reality, no one’s life was threatened in this case. Second, the court did not clarify the fact that there was a purportedly wrong order to grab the land of Vuon’s family," said Tran Vu Hai.

Voun says he took violent action to protect his property after all other efforts to keep his land had failed.

A press release from the Vuon family said they were upset with the result of the appeals trial, adding that the result was unjust. They said they also are upset with the light sentences handed down to the officials involved in the land eviction case.  

Five local officials were convicted in connection with the incident for failing to properly carry out their official duties. One of the officials was given a sentence of two and a-half years in prison, while the other four were given suspended sentences of 15 to 24 months.

Vuon's case is seen by many as a wakeup call for Vietnam's controversial land policies, which have pushed tens of thousands from their homes and businesses in recent years.

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