KUMAMOTO — A 22-year-old Vietnamese technical intern accused of abandoning the bodies of twins in November 2020 soon after she delivered them in a southwestern Japan town was sentenced to eight months in prison, suspended for three years, on July 20.
According to the ruling, on around Nov. 15, 2020, Le Thi Thuy Linh, 22, had a stillbirth at her home in the Kumamoto Prefecture town of Ashikita, and placed the corpses of her twin boys in a cardboard box she left in her room.
Although the defendant, currently out on bail, pleaded innocent, Judge Takao Sugihara acknowledged the charges of corpse abandonment made against her during the July 20 hearing. The defendant is set to appeal the ruling.
In the hearing, prosecutors claimed that the woman “abandoned the corpses to hide her pregnancy and delivery.” The defendant and her legal team argued that the woman had “kept them with the intention of having a burial without cremation, which is commonly practiced in Vietnam, after her physical recovery.” The question of whether the defendant’s actions fell under “abandonment” or “safekeeping” was in dispute at the trial.
Judge Sugihara stated that an act is considered a crime of corpse abandonment in cases where the corpse is hidden or abandoned in a way that “offends the public’s general religious sentiments.” The judge said that the defendant’s action was “preparation for a personal burial while concealing the stillbirths from those around her, and it is clear that this offends general religious sentiments.”
The judge also raised factors including the defendant being of an age capable of making sensible judgments, and her experience of living in Japan for over two years, and determined that she had deliberately abandoned the corpses.
Regarding the length of her imprisonment, the judge explained that the defendant, who had been sending a large part of her earnings to family in Vietnam, was placed in a situation in which she would have been forced to return to her home country had pregnancy made her unable to work and pay rent and living expenses.
He also said, “There was no system to fully support her, and she was placed in a harsh environment. The defendant feared being sent back home, and was distraught, unable to confess to those around her about the pregnancy, and delivered the babies. There is plenty of room to sympathize with the context in which the crime occurred.”
Following the ruling, the defendant issued a comment: “It is extremely disappointing that my claim of innocence was not recognized. I did not dispose of or hide my children’s bodies. I cannot accept the ruling.”
(Japanese original by Yuki Kurisu and Sonoko Nakamura, Kumamoto Bureau)