Court issues 4-year sentence to Tuoi Tre reporter
Updated : 09/07/2012 16:34 GMT + 7
After two days of trial, the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court today sentenced six defendants, including Tuoi Tre’s journalist Hoang Khuong, over a bribery case at a traffic police team in the city’s Binh Thanh District last year. The reporter denied the charge.
Judge Nguyen Thi Thu Thuy, the chair of the hearing, announced the sentences this afternoon.
Accordingly, Tuoi Tre Newspaper’s journalist Hoang Khuong (real name Nguyen Van Khuong) was sentenced to 4 years in prison on charges of “giving bribes”. Khuong has vehemently denied the charge, maintaining he only made a journalistic wrongdoing and did not commit a criminal offense.
The prosecutor’s office had earlier proposed a 6-7 year sentence to Khuong, but the court gave him a lighter sentence, saying his contribution as a journalist was an extenuating circumstance.
Meanwhile, Huynh Minh Duc, former traffic police officer at HCMC’s Binh Thanh District, was given 5 years in jail for taking bribes.
Nguyen Duc Dong Anh, who is Khuong’s brother-in-law and a friend of Hoa’s, and Tran Anh Tuan, vice director of Tan Hai Phong Co Ltd, were sentenced to 4 years and 1 year respectively for the same charge as Khuong’s.
Ton That Hoa, director of Duy Nguyen Private Enterprise, and Tran Minh Hoa, the owner of a motorcycle impounded by the Binh Thanh police, got 2 years and 5 years respectively for brokering bribes.
Honest motives in fighting corruption
Khuong, who has been detained since February 2, asserted that he did not bribe anyone and that he only made the mistake of being involved in handing VND15 million (US$720) to Duc on behalf of traffic violator Tran Minh Hoa – an action that was only aimed at obtaining enough evidence for an exposé story about Duc’s corruption.
The journalist said it is wrong for the prosecutor’s office to conclude that his acts were for his personal interest and beyond the scope of necessary journalistic activities serving the coverage.
Lawyer Phan Trung Hoai, who defended Khuong at court, argued that Khuong had committed shortcomings during his coverage against a corrupt traffic police officer, but such mistakes did not constitute a criminal offense.
Therefore, the lawyer proposed that the jury exempt Khuong from criminal responsibility and release him after 8 months of detention.
In his last words before the court announced the sentences, Khuong said “If I had not written the two articles [exposing corruption], would I be standing in the dock now? It was purely out of professional shortcomings, with honest motives in detecting and fighting corruption in line with the Party and State policies, instead I had to suffer”.
After Khuong ended his words, relatives, colleagues at Tuoi Tre newspaper and many other people stood up to cheer him, a rare event at court.
As previously reported, the bribery incident involving Khuong occurred in June 2011 and was exposed in Tuoi Tre’s Vietnamese-language daily newspaper on July 10, and on TuoiTreNews (tuoitrenews.vn) under the title “Traffic cop takes bribe to return bike” the same day.