Vietnam land eviction farmer sentenced to five years

In this April 2, 2013 file photo, Doan Van Vuon, second from left and his brother Doan Van Sinh, fourth from left, stand trial at the court in the northern city of Haiphong, Vietnam. Mr Vuon, second from left, said that his family had spent years developing the land

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A farmer who used home-made bombs and shotguns to fight land eviction has been sentenced to five years in prison.

Doan Van Vuon, 53, his brother and two other relatives were found guilty of attempted murder for injuring several police officers in January 2012.

Their case had attracted attention, and popular support, as a farmer resorting to violence to protect land in Vietnam is rare.

Farmers receive rights for a limited time, as land belongs to the state.

His three relatives were sentenced to between two and five years in prison, while his wife and sister-in-law received light suspended sentences.

The judge, Pham Duc Tuyen, said that the family's actions had "[violated] the normal operations of the state agencies and [caused] bad impact on social order."

Before the presiding judge delivered the verdicts, Doan Van Vuon pleaded that he acted out of desperation and that he did not intend to kill anybody: "I was left with no option," he said.

Mr Vuon's defence lawyer told reporters after the trial that he was "not happy".

"I had expected a better verdict," he said.

The BBC's Nga Pham says that all the jail terms were more lenient than expected, leading some to speculate that the government is trying to avoid fuelling public discontent over its land policies.

Contentious issue

The district government gave Mr Vuon the land to farm for 14 years before it said it wanted it back as part of a future infrastructure project. The remaining part was to be rented at a higher cost.

Mr Vuon protested against the decision, arguing that his family had spent years developing the land and had to pay back debts.

The government moved to evict him after negotiations failed and this resulted in a stand-off.

While land clearances happen frequently in Vietnam, they are rarely challenged.

Land rights are a contentious issue in Vietnam, where the Communist government owns all land and usage rights are unclear.

The Land Law, in effect since 1993, stipulates that households and individuals are entitled to land rights for a "limited period" of 20 years. After that, subject to availability and other factors, local governments will decide whether the land use can be extended.

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