A man in northern Vietnam was released on Tuesday after spending 11 years behind bars with a death sentence for the rape and murder of a child after courts ruled that the case had a lack of incriminating evidence.
The People’s Procuracy of Bac Giang Province announced the suspension of a case against local man Han Duc Long, 57, and ordered his immediate release and restoration of citizens' rights.
The order was signed by Nguyen Xuan Hung, the provincial deputy chief procurator, and the former prisoner was released to his home later that evening.
Alleged child rape and murder
On the evening of June 26, 2005, the body of five-year-old girl Nguyen Thi Yen was found in Phuc Son Commune in the province’s Tan Yen District with signs of sexual assault.
After a four-month unavailing investigation, Bac Giang police suspended the search for the girl’s killer and encouraged locals to report any incident of sexual harassment in the area.
Two local women later accused Long of raping them both and he was soon taken into custody for investigation.
During the police interrogations that followed his arrest, Long admitted to having raped and killed Yen.
Over lengthy court trials and appeals that lasted 11 years, Long was found guilty and sentenced to death four times, against which he unfailingly aired his grievances.
In 2014, the People’s Supreme Court of Vietnam found six contradictions in the case against Long and revoked his death sentence while ordering a re-trial.
As no further evidence against Long could be gathered since, the People’s Procuracy of Bac Giang on Tuesday decided to suspend the case and set the man free.
Han Duc Long (L) chats with his neighbors at his house in Bac Giang Province. Photo: Tuoi Tre
A surprise reunion
“Though I’m happy to finally be home, my family is broken,” Long told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper over the phone. “I’m shaking just sitting in my own house.”
Long’s wife Nguyen Thi Mai, who spent the past 11 years trying to prove her husband’s innocence, had been completely unaware of Long’s release until he showed up at the front gate.
“I could not believe my eyes when I answered the door and saw him standing there,” Mai said.
According to Long’s defense lawyer Ngo Ngoc Trai, the couple refused to admit defeat in their quest to prove Long’s innocence.
“I plan to head to Bac Giang [on Wednesday] to meet with Long and prepare for our next steps in demanding his exculpation and compensation,” the Hanoi-based lawyer said.
Han Duc Long (R, second) and his wife Nguyen Thi Mai (L, second) are surrounded by neighbors at their house in Bac Giang Province. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Han Duc Long (L) and his wife Nguyen Thi Mai recall their 11-year journey of proving his innocence at their house in Bac Giang Province. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Han Duc Long lies on his bed as his wife Nguyen Thi Mai cares for him. Long has been suffering from high blood pressure since his arrest. Photo: Tuoi Tre