A Vietnamese former prosecutor has ignited public outrage after security camera footage of him allegedly sexually assaulting a minor in an elevator went viral.
The video, dated April 1, shows footage inside an elevator at an apartment building in Ho Chi Minh City. Nguyen Huu Linh, a 61-year-old retired deputy chief prosecutor for the city of Da Nang, follows a young girl into the elevator, then a security guard boards to help the girl select her floor.
After the security guard leaves, the door closes and Nguyen allegedly lunges for the girl, appearing to kiss and touch her. She then pushes him away, and he grabs ahold of her again. He then releases her, the doors open and she runs out of the elevator, stumbling after she exits.
Several Vietnamese media outlets reported the girl was five years old.
The Asia Times reported that after Nguyen was questioned by police on April 3, he stated that he only “petted” the girl because he thought she was cute.
Police explained that Nguyen was visiting his family members in the building and that witnesses said he was intoxicated on the night of the assault.
Once the footage of the attack went viral, a public outcry for justice in this case erupted.
A Ho Chi Minh City-based lawyer told VNExpress that the act could be considered molestation of a person under 16, which carries a sentence of six months to three years in prison according to Vietnam’s penal code.
On Thursday, Ho Chi Minh city’s Association for the Protection of Child Rights urged government agencies to prosecute the case.
A Vietnamese law newspaper reported Friday that the Supreme People’s Procuracy Office issued an order to the procuracy office in Ho Chi Minh city to cooperate with other agencies to investigate the case, stressing no leniency should be given for current or former officials.
Since several other high-profile cases of child molestation have sparked similar outrage over the past few years.
In November 2017, 77-year old Nguyen Khac Thuy was handed a three year sentence for molesting two girls aged six and 11. His sentence was reduced to 18 months’ probation in May 2018, during an appeal hearing, with the judge citing his membership in the party as his reasoning for leniency.
According to Tuoi Tre News, the decision enraged the public, as legal experts stated that party membership doesn’t absolve people of their crimes.
A petition on change.org, calling for a review of the case for a more appropriate sentence, gathered 55,274 signatures as of this writing. The petition asked that an example be made of Nguyen to prevent others from committing sexual violence against children.
VNExpress also reported that last month a man was caught kissing a 20-year old woman inside an elevator in a Hanoi apartment building.
After failing to make a public apology, he was fined 200,000 dong (about $9) for “using offensive words and actions toward another person.” The lenient penalty angered many, who expressed their ire on social media.
While Vietnam does not publish official statistics on sexual harassment, the NGO ActionAid published a 2014 study of 2000 Vietnamese women and found that 87 percent had experienced sexual harassment, in public places.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Eugene Whong.