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Hundreds of villagers in northern Vietnam have signed a petition saying they took part in beating two suspected dog thieves to death, police said on Monday.
Police had charged seven people in connection with the deaths on August 27 in the Hiep Hoa District of Bac Giang province.
The seven men were charged with “intentionally causing injury”, although police acknowledged that hundreds of villagers had taken part in the assault.
The villagers who signed the petition said it was incorrect to charge only seven people.
Tong Ngoc Long, chief of Hiep Hoa District police department, did not say how many villagers had confessed, but Thanh Nien newspaper quoted officials as saying that 800 people had signed the petition.
The two victims were discovered allegedly stealing the residents' pets.
“Villagers are unhappy because according to the law, dog thieves are not punished criminally but administratively,” said Long.
Vietnamese law stipulates that only people who steal assets worth more than two million dong ($95), higher than the price of most dogs, are punishable under criminal law.
“The aim of the villagers in signing the petition is to put pressure on investigating agencies,” said lawyer Nguyen Thi Anh Huong.
At least 15 dog thieves have been beaten to death since the beginning of this year, local media reported.
Dogs are often stolen to sell on as meat, considered a delicacy in Vietnam. - Sapa-dpa