Vietnam Human Rights Defenders Weekly August 22-28, 2016: Vietnam Imprisons Two Activists for “Anti-state Propaganda”
Vietnam Human Rights Defenders Weekly, August 28, 2016
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On August 23, the People’s Court in Vietnam’s central coastal province of Khanh Hoa sentenced activists Nguyen Huu Quoc Duy and Nguyen Huu Thien An to respectively three and two years in prison, finding them guilty of conducting anti-state propaganda under Article 88 of the country’s Penal Code.
Mrs. Nguyen Thi Nay, mother of Duy, was not allowed to attend the so called open trial while Duy was not permitted to hire a lawyer of his choice but was defended by a lawyer appointed by the local authorities. A group of Saigon-based activists tried to attend the trial, however, they were detained by Khanh Hoa police in early morning of the day of trial.
One day after the trial, the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam issued a statement, saying the convictions against Duy and An are inconsistent with the right to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly provided for in Vietnam’s 2013 Constitution, and with Vietnam’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as with other international commitments. The U.S. called on Vietnam’s government to release unconditionally these two individuals, as well as all other prisoners of conscience, and allow all Vietnamese to express their views without fear of retribution.
Vietnam’s authorities have decided to extend the pre-trial detention of prominent human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai to 12 months. Mr. Dai, together with his assistant Ms. Le Thu Ha, was arrested on December 16 last year and charged with conducting “anti-state propaganda” activities under Article 88 of Vietnam’s Penal Code. Dai and Ha may face imprisonment up to 20 years if found guilty.
Vietnam’s security forces on August 24 blocked Mr. Lax Konrad, a political officer from the German embassy in Vietnam, from visiting prominent dissident Nguyen Quang A in his private residence in the northern province of Bac Ninh.
Police in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak detained Ms. H Buanbdap, a local resident from Ede ethnic minority for interrogation about her online postings on Formosa’s pollution in the country’s central coastal region. After two days and one night of detention, police released her on August 25. Currently, Ms. H Buanbdap is in a state of panic and depression.
And many other important news
===== August 22 =====
Vietnam Police Extends Pre-trial Detention of Prominent Human Rights Lawyer to 12 Months
Defend the Defenders: The Security Investigation Agency under Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security has extended the pre-trial detention of prominent human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai to 12 months, said his lawyer Ha Huy Son.
On Monday [August 22], lawyer Son received a letter from Vietnam’s Supreme People’s Procuracy, saying he cannot meet his client due to the extension of the investigation period to 12 months from the arrest. Son was told that he can access his client after the investigation was completed in order to “protect investigation secrets,” the letter said.
Earlier this month, Son sent his letter to the Supreme People’s Court to ask for permission to act as Mr. Dai’s lawyer. Mr. Dai, together with his assistant Ms. Le Thu Ha, was arrested on December 16 last year and charged with conducting “anti-state propaganda” activities under Article 88 of Vietnam’s Penal Code.
If found guilty, Dai and Ha may face imprisonment up to 20 years.
Since his arrest, Mr. Dai was not allowed to meet with his lawyer nor his family’s members as the country’s Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code prohibit lawyers or family to meet a defendant if she/he is charged with serious crimes/national security crimes during investigative period.
His re-arrest came just few months after his four-year house arrest ended. His detention was condemned by international human rights groups, including the New York-based Human Rights Watch, the London-based Amnesty International and the Stockholm-based Civil Rights Defenders and many Western governments.
In January, 26 international organizations issued a joint statement calling for the unconditional release of Mr. Dai and Ms. Ha.
Mr. Dai, a lawyer by profession, was arrested in 2007, together with Le Thi Cong Nhan, another prominent dissident, on the charge of conducting anti-state propaganda. He was sentenced to five years in jail and additional four-year house arrest. He was released in 2011 but kept under house arrest until June last year.
After being freed five years ago, Mr. Dai has continued his activities to promote multi-party democracy and human rights in the communist nation. He formed the Brotherhood for Democracy and the Vietnam Center for Human Rights, which have attracted participation of hundreds of young activists nationwide.
Before being re-arrested, Dai had been harassed by police forces who keep constant surveillance on him. He was attacked several times by thugs, most recently in the central province of Nghe An several days before his arrest. About 20 thugs with wooden bars brutally beat Dai and three fellow activists after they attended a meeting with local activists to mark International Human Rights Day [Dec. 10].
The arrest of lawyer Dai is part of an intensified crackdown by Vietnam’s communist government against local dissidents and social activists. According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, Vietnam is holding 130 political prisoners.
===== August 23 =====
Vietnam Imprisons Two Activists for Anti-state Propaganda Allegation
Defend the Defenders: The People’s Court in Vietnam’s central coastal province of Khanh Hoa on August 23 found two online activists Nguyen Huu Quoc Duy and Nguyen Huu Thien An guilty of conducting anti-state propaganda under Article 88 of the country’s Penal Code.
The court sentenced Duy, 31, to three years in prison and An, 21, to two years in jail.
According to the indictments, Duy, a resident of Cam Ranh city, was arrested on November 27, 2015 for posting articles on his Facebook page criticizing policies of the Vietnamese government while his cousin An was detained on August 28, 2015 for drawing the letters DMCS (which stands for F*ck communism) on a wall of the Vinh Phuoc ward police building and supporting a pro-democracy campaign Zombie which call on Vietnamese people to pay more attention to politics rather than be like moving zombies.
Duy was also accused of using Facebook messenger to provide “incorrect information about state leaders” to 30 school students.
His mother, Mrs. Nguyen Thi Nay was not allowed to attend the open trial of her son as police detained her in early morning of Tuesday and held her in detention until late afternoon when the trial finished.
A group of eleven activists from Saigon went to Cam Ranh city to observe the trial against Duy and An, but they were violently taken to a local police station and were released after the sentences were announced.
One day prior to the trial, Rafendi Djamin, director of Southeast Asia and Pacific Program of the London-based Amnesty International, sent a letter to Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Nguyen Thanh Son, who is also general director of the Permanent Office on Human Rights of Vietnam, to urge Vietnam’s government to release the two young men unconditionally and immediately.
According to the information that Amnesty International received, since his arrest last year, Duy was unable to maintain significant contact with his family. He was not allowed to hire a lawyer of his choice and had to accept a lawyer appointed by the local authorities.
Duy was reportedly denied family visits by the authorities and the only correspondence he had been permitted with his family had been to send short notes confirming that he had received goods and materials that his family had delivered to him through the authorities of the facility where he is being detained.
Amnesty International said the continuing denial of Duy’s access to his family may amount to cruel and inhuman treatment, in violation of the prohibition in Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in which Vietnam is a party and in Article 16 of the Convention against Torture (UNCAT), which was ratified by Vietnam in February 2015.
Saigon-based blogger Hoang Dung said the activities of Duy and An were not harmful for Vietnam’s government. however, the Khanh Hoa province’s police characterized their activities serious threat to national security in a bid to raise the local police prestige so they can get promotion.
Duy and An are among ten activists jailed on politically motivated charges this year. In late March, Vietnam imprisoned eight political dissidents and bloggers, including prominent blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh (aka Anh Ba Sam) and Nguyen Dinh Ngoc (aka Nguyen Ngoc Gia) with heavy sentences up to five years in jail.
Vietnam has also arrested a number of other activists, including human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Le Thu Ha, who were held from December 16 last year on allegation under Article 88 without being tried.
Vietnam has little tolerance for government criticism. It has used a number of controversial Penal Code articles such as Articles 79, 88, 245 and 258 to silence local dissent. According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, Vietnam is holding around 130 prisoners of conscience.
At the 13th Human Rights Dialogue with Vietnam on August 4, Australia expressed concern regarding ongoing restrictions on civil and political rights, including freedom of expression, association and assembly. It reiterated its serious concerns about the harassment, arrest and detention of peaceful human rights activists. Canberra also called on Hanoi to amend or remove provisions in the Penal Code that criminalize peaceful dissent.
===== August 24 =====
Embassy Statement: Vietnamese Court Decision to Convict Activists Nguyen Huu Thien An and Nguyen Huu Quoc Duy
U.S. Embassy in Vietnam, August 24, 2016: We are deeply concerned by a Vietnamese court’s conviction of activists Nguyen Huu Thien An and Nguyen Huu Quoc Duy, who were sentenced to two and three years in prison, respectively, under Article 88 of Vietnam’s Penal Code. The use of criminal provisions by Vietnamese authorities to penalize individuals exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly is disturbing.
These convictions appear to be inconsistent with the right to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly provided for in Vietnam’s Constitution, and with Vietnam’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as with other international commitments. We call on the government to release unconditionally these two individuals, as well as all other prisoners of conscience, and allow all Vietnamese to express their views without fear of retribution.
Vietnamese Central Highlands Indigenous Environmentalist Kidnapped by Local Police
Defend the Defenders: Police in Vietnam’s Central Highlands province of Dak Lak on August 24 kidnapped Ms. H Buanbdap, a local environmentalist, for interrogation about her postings on her Facebook page, local activists reported.
On Wednesday, police officers Truong Van Phung and Hung in Ea Bhok commune, Cu Kuin district detained Ms. H Buanbdap, 27, at the local police station to question her about recent her Facebook shares on the environmental catastrophe in the country’s central coastal region caused by discharge of toxic industrial waste by the Taiwanese Formosa steel plant located in the central province of Ha Tinh.
When her family came to the communal police station to ask for her release, the local authorities denied they were holding her. Her family and neighbors reportedly stayed in the local government building to wait for her release.
Her Facebook page reportedly came under the control of the local police.
After interrogating and insulting her over two days and one night, the police in Ea Bhok commune released Ms. H Buanbdap in the late afternoon of August 25, said Mrs. Tran Thi Hong, a member of the unsanctioned Vietnam Women for Human Rights.
Ms. H Buanbdap is from Ede ethnic minority in the Central Highlands where many indigenous tribes have been under constant harassment of the communist government.
After taking over the Saigon regime in 1975, the communist government has enforced hardline policies in its governance of indigenous people in the Central Highlands. Government officials have seized land of local tribes and destroyed forest, leaving few options for livelihood of indigenous people.
Mrs. Hong, who has also been under constant harassment by authorities in the neighbor province of Gia Lai, said Vietnam’s security forces maintain close surveillance over ethnic minorities and suppress any individuals advocating for human rights and land rights.
Many Christian pastors and social activists have been charged with “undermining national unity policy” under Article 87 of the country’s Penal Code, said Mrs. Hong, whose husband is imprisoned Protestant pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh.
The arrest of Ms. H Buanbdap was made one day after the People’s Court in the central province of Khanh Hoa sentenced two online activist Nguyen Huu Quoc Duy and Nguyen Huu Thien An to three and two years in jail, respectively, for their peaceful online activities. The two were found guilty of conducting anti-state propaganda under Article 88 of the Penal Code.
Vietnam has little tolerance for government critics. The communist nations have used a number of controversial provisions in the Penal Code to silence local political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders.
Hanoi has also deployed police officers and plainclothes agents to assault local activists, causing serious injuries for their victims.
Vietnam Security Forces Block German Diplomat, Not Allowing Him to Visit Prominent Dissident
Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s security forces on August 24 blocked a German diplomat, not permitting him to visit prominent social activist Dr. Nguyen Quang A in his private residence in Que Vo district, Bac Ninh province.
Dr. A said on his Facebook page that Mr. Lax Konrad, a political officer from the German embassy in Vietnam, was stopped by a group of about ten plainclothes agents on his way to the Vietnamese dissident’s house.
The diplomat then parked his car near Dien Quang pagoda and tried to go by foot to Dr. A’s house, but he was also blocked by the men.
Informed about the incident, A went out of his house to receive the diplomat but four plainclothes agents did not allow him to go out. Finally, Mr. Konrad was forced to leave the area without meeting with Dr. A as they planned.
This is the second government blockage Dr. A faced this month. In early August, the Hungary-trained economist was detained prior to his planned meetings with a number of diplomats from the EU and its countries members.
On May 24, he was also kidnapped by the security forces shortly before the scheduled meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and local activists which he was invited to attend.
Dr. A is a leading activist in Vietnam. He has written a number of articles criticizing policies of the ruling communist party and its government on socio-economic development.
In addition to imposing foreign travel ban on local political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders, Vietnam’s security forces often detain them or keep them under de facto house arrest in order to prevent them from meeting with foreign diplomats and officials or attending peaceful gatherings.
Many activists were blocked from attending the meeting between President Obama and representatives of local civil society during his first and final visit to the communist nation in May.
===== August 26 =====
Hanoi Police Detain Land Right Activist, Threatening to Place Him under House Arrest
Defend the Defenders: Security forces in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi on August 26 detained local land right activist Trinh Ba Phuong, threatening to place him under house arrest in a bid to prevent him from participating in peaceful demonstrations protesting illegal land seizure by local authorities.
On Friday’s morning, Mr. Phuong, an older son of detained land right activist Can Thi Theu, and dozens of land petitioners held a demonstration in Ha Dong district to demand Vietnam’s government to return their illegally-seized land and release Mrs. Theu, who was arrested on June 10 and charged with “causing public disorders” under Article 245 of the country’s Penal Code.
Authorities in Hanoi deployed a large number of police officers and militia to block the land petitioners from going to the city’s center, forcing them to go back to the Central Citizen Reception Committee under the Government Inspectorate located in Ngo Thi Nham street in the same district. Later, security forces forcibly took Phuong to the police station of La Khe commune.
In the police station, Phuong was questioned by a number of police officer, including Major General Bach Thanh Dinh, deputy head of the Hanoi Police Department, Dung, deputy head of Ha Dong district police and Major Chu Anh Tuan from the La Khe ward police.
Police officers said they planned to place Phuong under house arrest for one year and if he will not obey by their regulations, they will send him to a rehabilitation facility where the government holds drug addicts and sex workers.
Some policemen also threatened to beat him at La Khe police station.
After interrogating him for three hours but receiving no cooperation, the Hanoi police released him afternoon.
Mr. Phuong, 31, has been detained and beaten many times by the Hanoi police recently due to his peaceful activities opposing the illegal land grabbing of Vietnam’s authorities for building property and industrial projects, calling for protection of the country’s environment and advocating human rights in Vietnam.
He is the older son of Mrs. Theu and Mr. Trinh Ba Khiem, two prisoners of conscience released last year after 15 months in prison for participating in peaceful demonstration against state seizure of their land.
After being released in July last year, Mrs. Theu continued to fight for returning land for Duong Noi village. She became one of the most dynamic land rights activists in Hanoi where thousands of land petitioners come from many provinces and cities to ask for their land return or market price compensation. She also participated in other gatherings on issues related to human rights national sovereignty and environment.
On June 10, Hanoi re-arrested Theu on charge of causing public disorders and if found guilty, she may face imprisonment up to seven years.
In the communist Vietnam, all land belongs to the state and citizens have only the right to use it. The state and local authorities may seize people’s land for socio-economic development projects.
In many localities, authorities have grabbed land of local residents and compensated them at very low prices, which was later sold to industrial and property developers at very high prices, making thousands of people remain without houses or land for farming.
Thousands of land petitioners have gathered in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and other major cities to ask the government for justice, however, their demands have been ignored. In addition, the government has ordered police forces to suppress them, beating them and occasionally deporting them to their home provinces.
===== August 27 =====
Environmentalist in Southern Vietnam Escapes Deadly Attack by Thugs
Defend the Defenders: Nguyen Tri Quoc, an environmentalist in Vietnam’s southern province of Dong Nai has reported that he merely escaped from a deadly attack of unknown thugs after he spoke out against two companies for dumping waste near his areas.
Mr. Quoc, 35, from Vinh Tan commune, Vinh Cuu district, said at 8.45 PM of August 27, a group of six thugs came to his private residence by a car and assaulted him with stones and iron bars.
Quoc said he received some severe injuries but successfully ran away. The thugs destroyed his furniture and personal items before leaving the scene in a seven-seat car with a driver waiting near the house.
He said he has no idea who sent the thugs, who seemed very professional.
Quoc said he had no personal disputes. Recently, he has opposed the toxic waste dumping of two companies, namely Thanh Tung 2 Industrial & Toxic Waste Treatment Co. Ltd and Sonadezi Services Joint Stock Co. which are operating the Vinh Tan waste treatment zone in Vinh Tan commune.
The Vinh Tan waste treatment facility is just about dozens meters from a river where local residents take water for their livelihood. However, the Bau Sinh River was seriously polluted and its water cannot be used for watering vegetables. The river is connected with Dong Nai River.
Quoc said he was the only local resident to participate in a recent meeting with the two companies on their waste dumping. During the meeting, Bui Van Hung, director of Thanh Tung 2 used impolite words and threatened Quoc despite the presence of other district officials as well as local reporters.
According to state media, the 20,000-square-meter Vinh Tan waste treatment zone receives 650 tons of waste daily. The facility has caused heavy environmental pollution in the commune and adjacent localities, seriously affecting the life of local residents.
The waste dumping has affected underground water so residents in Tan Ap cannot use water from their well as they used to.
Some people have sent their complaints to the local authorities, but the government has taken no specific measures while the two companies continue to dump waste in the facility.
Quoc said many local residents are aware of the pollution but they are afraid of being assaulted by thugs hired by the two companies.
He has called on environmentalists to speak out and support him and other residents in Vinh Tan commune to demand an end to the waste dumping.
Environmental pollution is a serious problem for Vietnam which has experienced fast economic growth recently thanks to increasing foreign direct investment.
On August 24, speaking at a national online meeting on environmental protection, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said the country will not barter the environment for economic growth. He asked authorities from central to provincial levels to keep a close watch on environmental protection in making master plan on urban development and in licensing investment projects to ensure no recurrence.
The government leader blamed Vietnam’s legal loopholes and mismanagement for environmental violations.
===== End =====
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