Vietnamese religious leader appeals five-year sentence

The man at the center of allegations of incest, fraud and abusing freedoms has appealed against his five-year prison sentence.

Le Tung Van from the Peng Lei House Buddhist Church, now known as Thien Am on the Edge of the Universe, was sentenced on July 21 on charges of “abusing democratic freedoms”.

Police have since suspended investigations into claims the church was an incest cult whose leaders personally profited from charitable donations.

Le’s lawyer, Dang Dinh Manh of the Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association, brought the accused to the Duc Hoa district people’s court to file an appeal, accompanied by a team of defense lawyers.

Le raised five points to assert his innocence. He said he did not offend the Vietnamese Buddhist Church in Long An province, or the Duc Hoa district police. He said, on the contrary, he and members of his group suffered years of humiliation and slander.

Le repeated a call made at his trial for his accusers to stand up to him and make their claims in court.

The church leader accused five organizations of persecuting his religion: The Duc Hoa district Police Agency, the Long An provincial Police Department, the Duc Hoa district People’s Procuracy, the Long An province’s People’s Procuracy and the People’s Court.

He called on the appeals court to drop the charges against him and his colleagues and free them immediately and unconditionally.

Le’s lawyer Dang Dinh Manh told RFA that he and four associates believed the Duc Hoa district court had unfairly tried six members of Peng Lei because of at least 22 procedural violations.

“With Le Tung Van’s appeal we hope the appeals court will reach a verdict in accordance with the law, declaring there was no crime under Article 331 of the Criminal Code,” he said.

“If we have a guarantee that the procedural regulations will be strictly implemented, it will have a very positive impact on the policy of building a state based on the rule of law, restore people’s trust in the law and enhance the prestige of the prosecuting agencies.”

So far only Le has filed an appeal but lawyer Dao Kim Lan said he believed the six others charged to be innocent.

“Personally, as a lawyer directly involved in the case and having access to all the files, I determine that my clients have not committed a crime according to the charges and documents and evidence shown in the case file,” he said.

 

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