|Pham Thi Thien Ha at the court on Thursday morning, — VNA/VNS Photo Huyen Trang|
Thirty-seven witnesses and other people involved in the case were also summoned. Pham Thi Thien Ha – the main defendant – was represented by two lawyers.
The crime took place in Bau Bang District, Binh Duong Province in May 2019.
The mastermind – 32-year-old Pham Thi Thien Ha, residing in HCM City’s Tan Phu District – is charged with murder. Her accomplices, 67-year-old Trinh Thi Hong Hoa – Ha’s mother; 30-year-old Le Ngoc Phuong Thao; and 40-year-old Nguyen Ngoc Tam Huyen, are charged with two counts of murder and not denouncing criminals.
According to the indictment, the accused and two male victims gathered to practice Falun Gong guided by Ha.
The reclusive group did not follow principles of Falun Gong, yet practiced methods created by Ha such as fasting for 14 days or cutting ties with their families.
They usually gathered in isolated areas to avoid public attention.
The first victim was 50-year-old Tran Duc Linh from the central province of Nghe An whose body was encased in glue.
According to the indictment, in January 2019, when the whole group was practicing at a resort in Ba Ria–Vung Tau Province, Linh, unable to fast for too many days, tried to escape.
Other members caught Linh, locked him up and beat the victim to death.
The group then moved his corpse to a house in Bau Bang District, Binh Duong Province.
27-year-old Tran Tri Thanh residing in HCM City was identified as the second victim. During his time in Binh Duong Province, Thanh ate in secret, masturbated and intended to have sex with group members, according to testimonies of the defendants. Ha and other members killed the man through electrocution and strangling.
When the victims’ corpses started decomposing, the gang bought two containers to hide them in and filled with concrete.
The crime was only detected when the homeowner wanted to sell the property but could not contact the group. The two containers were found when he broke into the house.
In court, Ha denounced the indictment, saying she did not kill Linh and even "cared" for him, Tuổi trẻ (Youth) newspaper reported.
Admitting they beat Linh, Ha said that it was the main cause leading to his death. Explaining why they kept Linh's corpse for many months, the accused said though the victim was dead, they hoped he would be "revived", then put the body inside an air-conditioned room.
Denying the indictment to prosecute her mother, Pham Thi Hong Hoa, Ha said she ordered other members to kill him.
"I forced others to follow my orders. It was not a discussion among members," she said.
Ha told the jury that she had to kill Thanh as his "dark side" was being revealed. If they had not killed him, he would have had a negative impact on the group. The accused said she thought she would have to kill him by herself. VNS
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