Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, Sep 14 (efe-epa).- Two brothers have been sentenced to death by a court in Hanoi, Vietnam for their part in the killings of three police officers during a land dispute in January this year.
Another 27 people who were also on trial have been handed prison sentences ranging from life to 15 months in relation to the incident in which three police officers and Le Din Kinh, an 84-year-old neighborhood community leader, died.
The clashes occurred in the early hours of Jan. 9, when a detachment of hundreds of police officers entered the village of Dong Tam, a rural commune outside the capital city Hanoi, to guard the construction of a wall being built on land that is the subject of a dispute between the army and local residents.
The two defendants who were sentenced to death were the sons of Le Din Kinh. They had been accused of masterminding the resistance against the police operation.
Kinh had been the main voice opposing the confiscation of peasants’ land for the construction of a military airport.
The police accuse the villagers, led by Kinh, of violently resisting the police operation and burning three police officers to death.
The defendants said that the police had executed the 84-year-old community leader which had provoked the angry response from the villagers.
The violence involved in the land dispute triggered a wave of condemnation across the country, where land disputes are quite common.
Human Rights Watch condemned the sentence and the investigation leading up to the trial, and said the judicial system in Vietnam is “far from independent” with verdicts that are “dictated by the ruling communist party”.
“Quite clearly, the authorities want to hit them with very harsh penalties to warn off others who might dare to challenge state authority in the future,” HRW Asia deputy director Phil Robertson said.
In a one-party state where the media is tightly censored and political dissidents are swiftly detained, land disputes are one of the few causes of social unrest in Vietnam.
In April 2017, 38 police officers were taken hostage by villagers in Dong Tam after officials tried to arrest four villagers without warrants during a separate land dispute.
The standoff ended a week later after the villagers had been released in exchange for the police hostages. EFE