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Former police captain sentenced to three years in prison

Former Vietnamese policeman turned self-styled corruption buster Le Chi Thanh has been sentenced to three years in prison for defaming an unnamed deputy minister of public security

This was the second sentence for the former captain, who was an officer at Ham Tan prison camp.

The People’s Court of Ham Tan district in Binh Thuan province opened the trial on Wednesday, sentencing Thanh the same day.

The defendant was charged under the crime of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and individuals,” under Article 331 of the Criminal Code.

Thanh was found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison.

According to lawyer Dang Dinh Manh, who defended Thanh, the prosecution relied on videos posted by the accused on Facebook as evidence against him:

“The prosecution agency relied on clips allegedly made by Le Chi Thanh himself, and posted on the social network Facebook with content that was ‘distorted and untrue’ infringing on state agencies such as courts, the police, a deputy minister of public security and an individual who is his former supervisor.”

Mr. Thanh’s former supervisor is Col. Le Ba Thuy, chief of Ham Tan prison, who was accused of corruption by Thanh.

According to the online news site VnExpress, Thanh claimed that Col. Thuy, the superintendent of Z30D Prison, had land and properties worth tens of billions of dong which he had received from an unknown source. Thanh reportedly asked the Central Party Committee of Public Security and Government’s Inspectorate to investigate his claims of corruption and confiscate the assets.

The police said that Col. Thuy and his wife only had a house in Tan Duc commune, Ham Tan district and that his family bought property in An Phu ward, Thu Duc city in 2014 with money accumulated from wages, livestock farming, and grocery trading.

The trial panel also said that a video posted on Facebook by Thanh, in which he claimed a deputy minister of public security abused his power to discipline Thanh, was misleading and untrue.

Thanh was disciplined by the Prison Management Department (Ministry of Public Security) for the allegation and expelled from the police force in July 2020.

After being sacked Thanh became active on social media, making live broadcasts monitoring the activities of the traffic police.

On April 14, 2021, he was arrested under the charge of “resisting on-duty state officials” and later sentenced to two years in prison by the Thu Duc city court in January 2022.

With the new sentence, Le Chi Thanh will serve two sentences at the same time with a total of five years in prison.

Commenting on the outcome of the trial, lawyer Dang Dinh Manh said, although the sentence was lighter than could have been handed down under Article 331, his view was that using articles such as 331 or 117 in the Criminal Code was unjust: “because I think it goes against the freedom of speech that Article 25 of the Constitution provides.”

“In the case of [the accused making] statements that unjustly affect the reputation, honor and dignity of agencies, organizations and individuals, they have the right to initiate civil lawsuits to request compensation for damage and that is enough. This is also consistent with the treatment given in many countries in the region and around the world,” he said.

Thanh’s mother, Le Thi Phu, said he would not file an appeal. Instead she plans to continue lobbying high-level officials in the police agency to reduce her son’s prison term.