Vietnam Arrests Four Activists, Charging Six with Subversion

by Defend the Defenders, July 30, 2017

On July 30, the Security Investigation Agency of Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security carried out arrests of four activists namely Pham Van Troi, Nguyen Trung Ton, Truong Minh Duc and Nguyen Bac Truyen, charging them with “Carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of Vietnam’s 1999 Penal Code.

The detainees will be held incommunicado in the next four months for investigation on the case in which involve prominent human rights attorney Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Ms. Le Thu Ha who were arrested on December 16, 2015 and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code, the ministry said on its website.

In the morning of Sunday, the agency carried out the arrests of Mr. Ton, Mr. Duc and Mr. Troi at their private residences, and conducted house search, taking away a number of their personnel items, including Bible books of Mr. Ton, who is a Protestant pastor. Meanwhile, Mr. Truyen, head of Vietnamese Political & Religious Prisoners Friendship Association, was reported to have been gone missing when he was waiting for his wife at a gate of the Ky Dong Redemptory’s Church in Ho Chi Minh City in the morning of the day. His wife failed to contact with him by phone so she supposed he was kidnapped by local security forces.

All of the detainees are former prisoners of conscience. Mr. Troi is a former president of Brotherhood of Democracy formed by Mr. Dai while Mr. Ton is the organization’s incumbent president and Mr. Duc is his deputy responsible for the southern region. Duc is also a senior staff of the Viet Labor Movement.

The six activists face imprisonment of between twelve and twenty years of imprisonment, life imprisonment or capital punishment if are convicted, according to the country’s current law.

Mr. Ton, 45, was a prisoner of conscience. He was arrested in 2011 and sentenced to two years in prison on charges of “anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code. Released in early 2013, he has continued to fight for human rights and multi-party democracy. Recently, he was elected as the head of the Brotherhood for Democracy.

In recent years, Mr. Ton and his family have been constantly harassed by local authorities in Thanh Hoa province. In addition to publicly defaming him through local media, the radio and loudspeakers in his neighborhood, plainclothes agents have disrupted the business of his wife at a local wet market. They even destroyed her booth of seafood products.

In late February, Ton and his friend were kidnapped, robbed and brutally beaten by plainclothes agents in the central province of Quang Binh. His legs were broken as the kidnappers used wooden sticks to beat him. He is still under special treatment for injuries sustaining from the attack after long spending in hospitals for surgery operation for his legs.

Mr. Troi, 46, was arrested in 2008 and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code. Later, he was sentenced to four years in prison and additional four years under house arrest.

After being released in September 2012, he has continued to work for promoting human rights and multi-party democracy. In 2014-2016, he was president of the unsanctioned Brotherhood for Democracy founded by imprisoned human right lawyer Nguyen Van Dai.

Mr. Duc, 57, was arrested in 2007 and later sentenced to five years in prison on allegation of “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 258 of the Penal Code. After being released in May 2012, he has been under constant persecution, including physical attacks. Currently, he is vice president of Viet Labor Movement. Hoang Duc Binh, vice president of the movement, was arrested on May 15 and charged with “resisting persons in the performance of their official duties” under Article 257 and “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens” under Article 258 of the Penal Code.

Meanwhile, Mr. Truyen, 49, has been beaten many times by thugs since being released in May 2010. In 2006, he was arrested and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88. Later he was sentenced to 3.5 years.

The arrests and allegations are part of Vietnam’s intensifying crackdown against local political dissidents, human rights advocates, social activists and independent bloggers amid increasing social dissatisfaction on systemic corruption, economic mismanagement, heavy environmental pollution and other problems that the Southeast Asian nation is facing.

On July 26, police in the central province of Nghe An arrested Le Dinh Luong and charged him with “Carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the Penal Code.

Within one month from June 29, Vietnam sentenced two human rights defenders Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh and Tran Thi Nga to nine and ten years in jail, respectively on charges of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code.

Dozens of activists have been arrested and many of them sentenced to heavy imprisonments since the beginning of 2016 when the ruling communist party held its National Congress to elect the new leadership for the 2016-2020 period, with many police generals being selected to key positions of the party and state apparatuses.

The communist government has strived to keep the country under a one-party regime and make all effort to prevent the formation of opposition party.