Police in Ho Chi Minh City have finished the investigation into a child molestation case involving a former procuracy official and found insufficient grounds to conclude that the alleged molester touched the young victim.
Nguyen Huu Linh, an ex-procuracy official from the central city of Da Nang, was tried in Ho Chi Minh City last month for molesting an under-16-year-old girl inside an elevator of an apartment building in the southern metropolis in April.
However, the 61-year-old was allowed to leave shortly after his trial opened on June 25, as the court decided to return the case file to prosecutors so that conduct a further probe could be conducted.
Upon completing the investigation, police in District 4 concluded that there are not enough grounds to say whether Linh touched any sensitive parts of the little girl when they were alone inside the elevator at the Galaxy 9 apartment building or not.
The alleged sexual harassment occurred at around 9:10 pm on April 1, with Linh seen in footage captured by the CCTV installed in the elevator grabbing and kissing a young girl, thought to be somewhere between five and seven years old.
He was visiting a relative who lives at the Galaxy 9 apartment building on the day of the incident.
Video analysis of the footage shows that there are not sufficient grounds to conclude that Linh used his left hand to touch any of her front body parts, as only his back could be seen during that very moment, police said on July 11.
|Nguyen Huu Linh is seen hugging the girl in this screenshot taken from CCTV footage. Police say it could not be concluded whether Linh touched any of her sensitive parts during this very moment.|
Upon receiving this conclusion from the police, lawyer Tran Ba Hoc, Linh’s attorney, filed a petition asking the police, People’s Procuracy and People’s Court of District 4 to suspend the case and drop the accusation against his client.
Linh admitted to hugging and kissing the little girl on her cheek during an interrogation by police officers, but he claimed his actions were triggered by a combination of alcohol and how “adorable” the little girl was, rather than any sexual desire.
The victim and her family also said all what Linh did with the girl was only kissing her and there were no such actions as grabbing or touching her sensitive parts.
These statements, plus the conclusions of two separate investigations into the case, provide sufficient grounds to suspend the case, according to Hoc, the lawyer.
The lawyer added that the Circular No.1 issued in 1998 by the People’s Supreme Court and People’s Supreme Procuracy dictated that a person is guilty of child molestation if they have such acts as “grabbing and touching erogenous parts of a child” or forcing a child to have those actions upon them.
The act of kissing on the cheek of a child is not included in this circular, which remains to be the only legal framework used to handle child molestation cases in Vietnam, the attorney underlined.
With all these in mind, Hoc said his client should also be given the benefit of the doubt and freed of the child molestation charge.
|Nguyen Huu Linh smiles as he leaves a court in Ho Chi Minh City on June 25, 2019. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre|
The victim’s family also said prior to the trial on June 25 that they would prefer criminal charges not to be brought against Linh, instead stating they only wanted a formal apology, explaining that the girl was not harmed.
Vietnamese law, however, allows police to overrule the family's wishes and press charges if they see fit. In this situation, clear video evidence of the crime was enough to continue with their indictment.
A mass call for action to be taken against Linh previously ripped through the country after the video clip went viral on social media.
In late May, the People’s Procuracy in District 4 officially charged Linh with molesting a child under the age of 16, a crime punishable by up to three years in prison.
He was placed under house arrest in Hai Chau District, Da Nang.