A Vietnamese man had to serve over 17 years in jail because of a wrongful murder conviction, leaving horrible consequences for his life and his family’s.
Huynh Van Nen, 53, was declared innocent by authorities in his hometown, Binh Thuan Province in south-central Vietnam, last month after spending 17 years and five months in prison for being wrongfully convicted of murder.
The man came back to his homeland and find out that his family had had to struggle with many challenges due to his long-time absence.
“For over 17 years, my family was broken and my children grew up without fatherly love and proper living conditions,” Nen said in tears during a public apology ceremony organized by provincial judicial agencies last week.
His 89-year-old father, despite old age, had to seek for his justice and could not have a decent sleep for nearly two decades, he added.
“My mother passed away when I was in prison, with a constant worry about my well-being before drawing her last breath,” Nen sobbed.
After more than 17 years, the innocent man returns to his hometown and witnesses the positive changes of his neighbors, except for his own house which is still shabby, he said.
Nen’s family had to suffer from poverty and many difficulties as he, the breadwinner, was behind bars; and his children had to be sent to a foster home in Ho Chi Minh City, Nen partially opened up about the problems during a recent live talk organized by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
“The death of my mother was also kept secret from me until I was released,” Nen said, his eyes filled with tears.
Nen, now a free man, wakes up at 3:00 am every morning to help his wife prepare for the foods that will be sold later at a local market and continues with his manual labor.
The man said he has to try his best to help his wife, as she can only earn about VND100,000 (US$4.45) per day after deducting all expenses.
Locked away from the outside world for almost two decades, Nen can hardly recognize the new face of the community, saying that streets and houses in Tan Minh Commune, where he lives, are now more modern and beautiful.
“Even the cellphones that people usually use look strange to me,” Nen added.
The man’s health has also worsened throughout the years of extreme living conditions in prison.
“Before being treated by doctors, Nen could not see clearly due to his eye problems. He might also suffer from mental illness after many years of being wrongfully convicted.” Huynh Van Truyen, Nen’s father, said.
Huynh Van Nen was arrested in May 1998 as a prime suspect in the murder of Le Thi Bong in Tan Minh Commune, Ham Tan District, Binh Thuan Province and reportedly confessed that he had committed the crime to steal her property.
Police cited Nen’s statement that he and nine of his relatives were also involved in the murder of another woman, Duong Thi My, in 1993.
In August 2000, the People’s Court in Binh Thuan found Nen guilty of murdering Bong, based on his confession, and sentenced him to life in prison, despite the man’s cry for innocence and claim that he was violently forced to confess.
Knowing the news, Nguyen Phuc Thanh, a resident of Ham Tan District, submitted a testimony saying that two of his friends, Nguyen Tho and Ho Van Viet, were the killers of Bong and told him the murder, which was ignored by the court.
After several trials related to My’s murder, the court could not connect the evidence to Nen and his relatives and announced their innocence in 2005.
All nine people were publicly apologized to and compensated, excluding Nen, as he had to continue serving his life sentence for the previous murder.
The Supreme People’s Court in 2014 suspended Nen’s life sentence and reopened the case, after many years of his friends’ and family’s relentless efforts to seek for his justice.
Nen was released on bail to receive medical treatment for his eyes on October 22 and continued to hope for his freedom.
On November 28, authorities in Binh Thuan announced an official decision to suspend all investigations into Nen’s case, putting an end to his unjust sentence.
Provincial judicial agencies organized a public apology ceremony on December 3 to say sorry to Nen, and billions of dong (VND1 billion = US$44,480) are expected to be paid to him as compensation.