Vietnam’s Supreme People’s Procuracy, in a rare move in the communist state, has accepted an appeal for a re-investigation into the case of death-row inmate Ho Duy Hai, the country’s state media said Saturday.
Ho was arrested in March 2008 and convicted nine months later of plundering property and the murder of two female postal employees in Ho Chi Minh City. The People’s Court of Long An province sentenced him to five years for the theft, and gave him the death penalty for the murders. These sentences were combined, resulting in a death sentence.
The decision by the procuracy on Saturday puts on hold Ho’s sentence, and cancels the verdicts of the trial in 2008 and the appeal in 2009, as well as a decision by the procuracy made in 2011 to uphold the sentence.
“I am very happy with this decision. I’ve been waiting for the past 12 years,” said Ho’s mother, Nguyen Thi Loan to RFA’s Vietnamese Service Monday.
“I am happy and grateful to all, both in Vietnam and abroad who helped me through this ordeal. My happiness cannot be expressed,” she said.
Loan said that she intended to go to the Long An prison where her son is being held to ask for his release.
Ho was imprisoned when he was 25 years old. He is now about 10 years older, but Nguyen said her son now appears almost elderly, which is why she suspects Ho is being mistreated behind bars.
“After years of imprisonment he looks like an old man. I have not seen the cell in which he lives, bụt in my imagination, there must be no greater pain than to be put in jail,” she said.
According to the independent online magazine, The Vietnamese, Ho was “wrongfully convicted.” A report published in December 2017 claimed that authorities made many procedural errors in his case and lacked physical evidence.
“The only evidence used to convict him was practically his confession, which he later recanted and revealed that he was forced to confess by the police during his detention,” the report said.
In addition, no time of death for the two victims was ever established, while the murder weapons were misplaced by the forensic team. Fingerprints at the crime scene did not match Ho’s, the report said.
Amnesty International (AI) reported that Nguyen believed that Ho was being tortured in prison, citing his deteriorating health and loss of weight.
According to AI, Ho was to be executed on December 5th 2014, but Truong Tan Sang, Vietnam’s then president, put a stop to it a day before.
In February 2015, the National Assembly’s Committee on Judicial Affairs declared after a reinvestigation into the case that during both the initial trial and the appeal, there had been “serious violations of criminal procedural law.”
The committee urged that the case be reviewed on appeal, but in Dec. 2017, Long An province’s procuracy pushed for execution.
According to The Vietnamese, Prosecutorial General Dinh Van Sang said he should be executed as soon as possible because “the imprisonment of this kind (of prisoners) would be too burdensome (for the government).”
In May 2018, a petition signed by 25,000 signatories was sent to the then State President Tran Dai Quang saying that Hai was innocent.
Last month, AI’s Norway office sent a petition letter with 25,000 signatories to General Secretary and State President Nguyen Phu Trong calling for Ho’s acquittal.
Reported and translated by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Written in English by Eugene Whong.