RIOT police with cattle-prods and electrified shields yesterday led a condemned police officer through angry but satisfied Hanoi crowds. The confirmation of the death sentence ended a two-year bid for freedom in a case seen by many as a rare test of justice in a nation used to cover-ups of official crime. Last-ditch mercy pleas by traffic police lieutenant Nguyen Tung Duong failed to convince a team of judges at the Supreme Court of the People that he should live. It is expected that Duong will be executed by firing squad within the next three weeks. He had earlier been sentenced to death despite denying for two years that he shot 20-year-old motorcyclist Nguyen Viet Phuong. Duong had stopped the motorcyclist on a bridge over the nearby Red River. Phuong was carrying 50 million dong (HK$40,000) - equal to 20 years' wages for most Vietnamese - which he planned to ship to his company's office in Ho Chi Minh City from Gia Lam airport on the outskirts of Hanoi. A June 1993 issue of Dai Doan Ket, the newspaper of Vietnam's Fatherland Front, reported that some officials helped cover up evidence of murder, including a second policeman who helped Duong change out of the clothes he had worn at the scene. Other papers alleged that members of Duong's family offered money to the dead man's relatives to keep them silent. A crowd estimated at between 5,000 to 7,000 blocked streets around the court, breaking into cheers and applause as loudspeakers broadcast the result. 'The sentence shall stand,' one judge said, as army hats and shoes were flung into the air in celebration. Riot police in steel helmets and camouflage gear used cattle-prods to force a path through the crowd as the heavily armoured van emerged from huge steel gates, flanked by three trucks with some 60 armed officers aboard. The sentence pacified the crowd, which had grown over the three-day appeal into the biggest spontaneous gathering in years. Police took a firm but low-key stance, allowing people into the courtyard despite ugly scenes on Wednesday when no verdict was announced. Scuffles broke out between baton-wielding police and several men in the crowd as stones and fruit were thrown at the van carrying Duong from the court. Several men yesterday complained of injuries from Mace and batons, while parts of a three-metre brick and iron fence surrounding the elegant French-era building lay in tatters - testimony to the strength of the crowds. 'You should have been killed two years ago . . . you were lucky to get this far,' one man shouted as the verdict was announced, reflecting a common hatred of Hanoi's traffic police. The role of the traffic police has grown as Hanoi's tiny streets face growing congestion and officers can frequently been seen whacking young motorcyclists and soldiers with batons and exacting spot fines at crowded intersections. 'The People's Court has ruled for the people. Justice has been done,' was another popular chant.