Prison sentences imposed on farmers for protesting land grab

VNRN – Three land activists from Duong Noi [Dương Nội], a village in suburban Hanoi mostly known for its long-standing land disputes, on Friday appeared before the Ha Dong People’s Court. While they were on trial, dozens of their supporters were barred from approaching the courtroom; many were temporarily arrested, including their family members.

Mrs. Can Thi Theu [Cấn Thị Thêu], 52, and her husband, Trinh Ba Khiem [Trịnh Bá Khiêm], 56, were given 15 and 18 months of imprisionment respectively for “resisting persons in the performance of their official duties” under Article 257 of the Penal Code. The third accused, Mr. Le Van Thanh [Lê Văn Thanh], was sentenced to 12 months in prison.

The three were arrested after a land grab on April 25. Mrs. Can Thi Theu was reportedly shooting a video footage of the eviction where her husband and other farmers got beaten by police forces. The police then tried to stop her by allegedly giving her anaesthetic before taking her away. The video clip, spread subsequently on Facebook, showed a violent conflict between the farmers of Duong Noi and foreces of police and social order defenders.

Three days before, two other farmers, Mrs. Nguyen Thi Ngan [Nguyễn Thị Ngân] and Mrs. Nguyen Thi Toan [Nguyễn Thị Toàn], also got arrested and charged with “resisting persons in the performance of their official duties.” Each was sentenced to six months in prison on September 15.

Dozens of Duong Noi farmers in red T-shirt, carrying slogans urging the release of the accused, tried to attend the courtroom and were brutally suppressed. Even Trinh Ba Phuong [Trịnh Bá Phương] and Trinh Ba Tu [Trịnh Bá Tư], the two sons of Mrs. Can Thi Theu and Mr. Trinh Ba Khiem, were not allowed to be present at the court. Around twenty people, including Phuong and Tu, were taken to a local police station and confined there until late at night.

Duong Noi is a village located in Ha Dong district, some 14 kilometres southwest of Hanoi. Land disputes erupted in the village years ago when local farmers refused to transfer their lands to a developer, Nam Cuong Group. Thousands of police and social order defenders, however, were deployed on the land grab of April 25. The land-lost victims alleged that authorities even hired thugs to join the effort, and by arresting the most resistant farmer, Mrs. Can Thi Theu, they showed their determination in evicting people of their lands.

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