January 13, 2018
Defend the Defenders, January 13, 18
Vietnam’s authorities will try environmentalist Hoang Duc Binh (or Hoang Binh), who is a vice president of the independent Viet Labor Movement on January on allegations of “resisting persons in the performance of their official duties” under Article 330 and “Abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens” under Article 331 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code.
The trial will be held by the People’s Court of Nghe An province on January 25, according to his lawyer Ha Huy Son.
Binh, 33, will face imprisonment of up to 14 years in prison if convicted, according to the current law which gives imprisonment of between two and seven years in jail for each charge.
On May 15, authorities in Vietnam’s central province of Nghe An kidnapped Mr. Binh when he escorted Catholic priest Nguyen Dinh Thuc from the Song Ngoc parish in Dien Chau district to Vinh city. Their car was stopped by police in Dien Chau district’s center and police violently removed Binh from the car. Later, Nghe An province’s authorities publicized an arrest order of Binh issued by the province’s People’s Procuracy two days earlier.
On November 28, 2017, police in Nghe An also arrested Nguyen Nam Phong, the driver, and accused him of “resisting persons in the performance of their official duties” under Article 330. More than six months earlier, when the police ordered Phong to open the car to allow them to take Binh out, Phong denied. However, police still broke the car and detained Binh.
Mr. Phong will also be tried in the same case of Binh on January 25.
Along working to promote rights of workers, Binh is a well-known blogger who has covered news on the Formosa-causing environmental disaster in the central coastal region.
In the press release of the Viet Labor Movement on his detention, the organization said the arrest aims to neutralize him because he has effectively assisted regional Catholic priests in helping thousands of victims of the environmental catastrophes caused by the Taiwanese Formosa steel plant and Ho Ho hydropower plant.
The Taiwanese Formosa steel plant illegally discharged a huge amount of industrial waste into waters in the central coast, causing massive death of fisheries in April 2016.
Instead of asking the foreign investor to take measures to clean the water and compensate adequately for local fishermen, Vietnam’s government has suppressed the local Catholic community which strongly protested the Taiwanese firm.
Authorities from Dien Chau district and Nghe An province deployed thousands of police officers, militia and thugs to attack Catholic followers when they were on their way to Ha Tinh province to challenge the Taiwanese company, causing severe injuries for hundreds of people, including priest Dang Huu Nam.
The arrest and trial of Mr. Binh are part of Vietnam’s ongoing intensified crackdown on local activists which began from early 2016 when the new communist leadership with many police generals being appointed in key posts gained power after the ruling communist party’s National Congress in January.
Last year, Vietnam arrested at least 45 activists and convicted 19 ones, giving them hard sentences of between three and 16 years, mostly on allegations in the national security provisions in the Penal Code.
Among convicted are human rights defenders and environmentalists Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, Tran Thuy Nga and blogger Nguyen Van Hoa.
Vietnam is holding around 180 prisoners of conscience, according to Defend the Defenders’ counting.