Vietnam Arrests Prominent Human Rights Defender, Charging Her with Anti-state Propaganda

By Defend the Defenders, October 10, 2016

On October 10, security forces in Vietnam’s central province of Khanh Hoa arrested prominent human rights defender Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh and charged her with conducting anti-state propaganda under Article 88 of the Penal Code.

Local activists reported that Ms. Quynh was detained at around 10AM when she was assisting Ms. Nguyen Thi Nay in contacting with her son Nguyen Huu Quoc Duy, who was sentenced to three years in prison in August, also under Article 88.

Police arrested her when the two females went to a detention facility where Duy is held. Later, the police brought Quynh to her private residence and conducted search for documents until 3PM.

Police announced that they will detain her for four months to investigate her activities. Her mother reportedly asked to see the arrest warrant but the police refused to show it.

The arrest was based on her 400 articles about police torture posted on her Facebook account. Accordingly, the articles documented 31 cases in which suspects died during detention in police custody. The documentation, based on state media, has distorted the police forces, state media said, citing information from police.

If found guilty, Quynh may face imprisonment up to 20 years in prison according to the Penal Code.

Authorities in Nha Trang deployed a large number of police officers to block the areas around her private residence in Nha Trang city. Some local activists tried to come to collect information on the case but they were kept away from the scene.

Ms. Quynh is a well-known blogger writing under the penname Me Nam (Mother Mushroom). She is also known for activities promoting human rights. She is one of the leading figures of the unsanctioned Vietnam Blogger Network which fights for freedom of press in the country.

In 2015, she was honored with Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award by the Stockholm-based Civil Rights Defenders.

She has been subjected to constant persecution at the hands of Vietnam’s police for years, including being banned from international travel.

Vietnam has intensified its crackdown on local political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders. In addition to sentencing 18 activists so far this year, the communist government has launched a wave to violent assaults against many others.

In the most recent case, police in the southern city of Vung Tau on October 8 detained over two dozens of activists who attended a workshop on civil society. Police confiscated their cell phones and cameras and interrogated them. During questioning, they brutally beat many activists, including Ms. Nguyen Thuy Quynh and Mr. Le Cong Dinh.

Vietnam has used controversial articles such as 79, 88 and 258 in the Penal Code to silence local dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders. So far this year, it has imprisoned 18 activists on allegation of anti-state activities.

Last month, Amnesty International has urged Vietnam to release 82 prisoners of conscience, including human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, who was arrested on December 16 last year and charged with anti-state propaganda under Article 88.

According to Human Rights Watch, Vietnam holds around 130 political prisoners.

Police torture is systemic in Vietnam. According to the Ministry of Public Security, there were 226 deaths in police custody between October 2011 and September 2014. Police said illness and suicides were the main reasons for their deaths while their families and human rights defenders blamed police torture and ill-treatment for causing their deaths. State media has also reported dozens of criminal suspects dying in police stations in 2015-2016.