A court in Ho Chi Minh City on Friday decided to cancel an 18-month probation verdict of a province-level court of appeal for a 78-year-old Vietnamese man accused of having lewd acts against two preteen girls and uphold a previous verdict to put him in jail.
Nguyen Khac Thuy was sentenced to three years behind bars on charges of sexually abusing two girls, aged six and 11, by a court of Vung Tau, the coastal city of the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau, in November 2017.
The elderly submitted an appeal against the charge, prompting an appeal court to be convened on May 11.
However, the appellate court ruled that there was not enough evidence to charge him for the second incident, involving the 11-year-old girl, and found Thuy guilty in the first case only.
The court thus reduced his sentence to 18 months of probation. The judge justified his leniency by citing that the defendant is a Party member.
The decision has since stirred up fierce opposition from the public, with legal experts stating that being a Party member is not a factor for a sentence reduction.
Many thought the verdict was not harsh enough for the pain Thuy caused the children.
Previously, Ba Ria-Vung Tau police also suggested that Thuy be charged for molesting as many as four preteen girls.
On May 17, Superior People’s Court in Ho Chi Minh City announced that the ruling of the appellate court had been overturned, requesting that the court of second instance be conducted again. The judge who handled the appeal was also temporarily suspended.
In Vietnam’s court system, the Supreme People’s Court holds the highest power, followed by three Superior People’s Courts based in Hanoi, the central city of Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City.
In the final decision to settle the saga, the Ho Chi Minh City Supreme Court ruled the cancelation of the 18-month probation verdict, requesting that Thuy be sentenced to three years in prison, as decided by the court of first instance.
According to the indictment, Thuy was charged with committing lewd acts on two girls in separate instances in April and May 2014 at the Lakeside apartment complex in Vung Tau.
In the first case, the elderly man touched the sensitive parts of the six-year-old girl and was later scolded and hit in the face by the victim’s father.
In the second incident, the victim was with a friend in her apartment when Thuy arrived and reached his hand through the door to commit lewd acts on her.
Thuy pleaded not guilty to both charges of child molestation, but the first court in Vung Tau City ruled that there was sufficient evidence to convict him. He was then condemned to three years in prison.
However, the appeals court in Ba Ria - Vung Tau ruled that there was not enough evidence to charge him for the second incident, involving the 11-year-old girl, and found Thuy guilty in the first case only. His sentence was thus commuted to 18 months of probation.