Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for April 23-29, 2018: Appreal of Environmentalist Hoang Duc Binh Rejected
Defend the Defenders | April 29, 2018
On April 24, the People’s Court of Nghe An province rejected the appeal of environmentalist and labor activist Hoang Duc Binh, sending him back to prison in a hearing which lasted only few hours.
Two months ago, Binh was sentenced by the People’s Court of Dien Chau ditrict to 14 years in prison on allegations of “resisting on-duty state officials” under Article 330 and “abusing democratic freedoms” under Article 331 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code, politically motivated charges in reprisalfor his assistance to Formosa-affected fishermen.
Dao Ngoc Bich Quynh Trang, daughter of imprisoned activist Dao Quang Thuc,informed Defend the Defenders that her father has been tortured and inhumanely treated by Hoa Binh police. Mr. Thuc was arrested in October last year and charged with subversion under Article 79 of the 1999 Penal Code.
Vietnam may arrest other members of the unsanctioned online group Brotherhood for Democracy after convicting its nine key memberson alleged subversion. Police in many localities were reported to summon many activists for interrogation, some of them were forced to go into hiding to avoid being arrested.
Saigon-based activist Tran Thu Nguyet was detained and forcibly returnedto the city by Nghe An province’s security forces on April 24 when she came to Vinh city in a bid to attend the funeral of the mother of outspoken Catholic priest JB Nguyen Dinh Thuc. Police confiscatedher cell phone and submerged it into water, a common tactic by police.
===== April 22 =====
Saigon-based Activist Deported When Trying to Attend Funeral of Catholic Priest’s Mother in Central Region
Defend the Defenders: On April 22, security forces in Vietnam’s central province of Nghe An forcibly returnedfemale activist Tran Thu Nguyet back to Ho Chi Minh City when she tried to attend a funeral of the mother of a local Catholic priest, Defend the Defenders has learned.
When Ms. Nguyet landed at the Vinh airport, security officers came and took her to a local station where they confiscated her cell phone and submerged it into water.
Two hours later, they took her to an airplane and put her on a planeback to the southern economic hub where she resides.
Nguyet, who travels across Vietnam to support suppressed activists, planned to go to Nghe An to attend the funeral of priest JB Nguyen Dinh Thuc’s mother who passed away last week. The father is among outspoken priests about the Formosa’s environmental disaster and pays efforts to support affected fishermen.
Nguyet was detained by police many times when she participated in peaceful demonstrations about issues such as country’s sovereignty and environmental pollution.
===== April 23 =====
Retired Teacher Tortured in Pre-trial Detention for Allegation of Subversion
Defend the Defenders: Retired teacher Dao Quang Thuc, who was arrested on October 5 last year on allegation of subversion, has been tortured and inhumanely treated in pre-trial detention, the family informed Defend the Defenders.
Ms. Dao Ngoc Bich Quynh Trang, the daughter of Mr. Thuc, said her father has been held incommunicado since being arrested until recently when he was hospitalized as a result of being badly treated by police. Only after taking him to a provincial hospital and later to the Hanoi-based 19/8 Police Hospital, did police allow the family to make short visits in thepresence of police officers.
Mr. Thuc, who is charged with “carrying out attempts to overthrow the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the 1999 Penal Code, is held in the Cham Mat temporary detention facility under the authority of the police in Hoa Binh province, around 80 km from the capital city of Hanoi.
During a short visit with his family last week, Mr. Thuc told them that in the first two months of detention, he was tortured by investigation officers who had also ordered the detention facility to leave him without food.
The family was not permitted to supply food nor send money for him to purchase food from the detention facility’s canteen, as other detainees can. He was allowed to receivethefamily’s supports from the third month, his daughter said.
During interrogation, four police officers beat him to coerce aconfession, he told his family. Trang said once she was invited to go to the detention facility to work with police about herfather’s activities, she met a drunkenofficer namely Tu who told her that he had just conducted an interrogation with her father.
Due to inhumane treatment bypolice, her father has suffered a number of health issuesincluding mental breakdown and high blood pressure, Trang told Defend the Defenders, adding he was healthy in September last year, one month after retiring as a teacher in Trieu Phuc Lich primary school, Toan Son commune, Da Bac district.
Trang said police also summoned her mother and brother tothe police station where they forcedthem to talk about her father’s activities despite having no knowledge of them.
Mr. Thuc has not been allowed to meet with a lawyer, Trang said.
The arrest of Mr. Thuc was part of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on local dissent. The retired teacher was said to be connected with Dao Minh Quan, a Vietnamese American calling for overthrowing the Vietnamese communist regime by all means. His daughter told Defend the Defenders that police found her father’s letter in which he asked to join the organization established by Quan, who declared himself as the prime minister of a government in exile.
Some sources informed Defend the Defenders that when police searched Mr. Thuc’s house in Hoa Binh province, they had found some weapons. However, his daughter affirmed that her father bought an old hand-made gun along time ago just for decoration.
Thuc has never been a member of any civil organization, a Hanoi-based activist claimed.
If convicted, Mr. Thuc may face life imprisonment or even thedeath penalty, according to current Vietnamese law.
Last year, Vietnam arrested more than 40 activists and charged them with vague articles in the national security provisions of the 1999 Penal Code such as subversion (Article 79) and “conducting anti-State propaganda” (Article 88).
Since June last year, dozens of activists have been convicted and sentenced to lengthy imprisonments of between three and 16 years by short trials which failed to meet international standards for fair trials.
As many as 19 activists have been convicted and sentenced to a total 156 years and six months in jail and 46 years of probation. Prominent human rights attorney Nguyen Van Dai was sentenced to 15 years in prison and five years under house arrest while environmentalist and labor activist Hoang Duc Binh was given 14 years in prison.
Vietnam signed the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 2013 and in late 2014, the country’s parliament ratified the convention.
===== April 23 =====
Family of Environmentalist Hoang Duc Binh May Be Permitted to Attend His Appeal Hearing
Defend the Defenders: Five members of the family of environmentalist and labor activist Hoang Duc Binh were told they would beallowed to enter a courtroom to observe his appeal hearing set on April 24, his brother Hoang Nguyen informed Defend the Defenders.
One day prior to the appeal hearing which wascarried out by the People’s Court in Nghe An province, a local security officer announced the permit, Mr. Nguyen said.
The appeal hearing was supposed to beopen for public at the headquarters of the province’s People’s Court in the center of Vinh city.
Binh, 35, was arrested on May 15 last year and later charged with “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.
On February 6 this year, the People’s Court of Dien Chau district found him guilty and sentenced him to 14 years in prison. His conviction andlengthy imprisonment aims to silence environmentalists and human rights defenders amid rising public concerns about increasing environmental pullution, especially the disaster caused by the discharge of a huge amount of toxic industrial waste by the Taiwan-invested Formosa steel plant located in the neighboring province of Ha Tinh on thecentral coast.
On that day, Binh’s family was orally permitted to attend the open trial, however, only his parents were allowed to enter the courtroom while his brothers and other relatives were detained atpolice stations where they were brutally beaten by undercovered policemen. Police also confiscatedtheir cell phones and released them inlate afternoon after the trial ended.
Nguyen said Binh’s lawyer was permitted to meet with him in the Nghi Kim temporary detention facility under the authority of Nghe An province’s police yesterday to prepare for his defense. The activist has yet to be allowed to meet with his family since being arrested in May last year. His family is allowed to supply food worth below VND50,000 ($2.2) three times a month.
===== 24/4 =====
Vietnam Court Upholds 14-year Sentence for Environmentalist Hoang Duc Binh
Defend the Defenders: On April 24, the People’s Court in Vietnam’s central province of Nghe An rejectedtheappeal of environmentalist and labor activist Hoang Duc Binh, upholding the 14-year sentence given by the lower court in the first-instance hearing on February 6.
Duringthe appeal hearing, despite the oral promise to allow five members of his family to enter the courtroom, security forces said they would permit onlyhis parents to observe the hearing but not his brothers. Concerned about thepossibility of their sons being beaten by security forces, Binh’s parents chose notto go inside the court but remainedoutside with his brothers.
In the first-instance, only the defendant’s parents were allowed to enter the courtroom while his brothers and many other relatives and friends were detained, beaten,and robbed by undercover policemen during detention.
During the appeal hearing, Mr. Binh, vice president of the unsanctioned organization Viet Labor Movement, told his lawyer Ha Huy Son that during the pre-trial detention, he was forced to share the same cell with death-sentenced criminals who regularly beat him without being punished.
Binh also rejected the accusation of the district court, saying he just assisted Formosa-affected fishermen in seeking adequate compensation for the consequences of the environmental disaster caused by the Taiwanese steel plant which discharged a huge volume of toxic industrial waste into the central coastal waters as well as request the Taiwanese company to clean the affected areas.
He had been kept incommunicado formonths until late March when he was permitted to meet with his lawyer to prepare for his defense. His family has yet to be allowed to meet him since his arrest in May last year.
Speaking in an interview after the appeal hearing, lawyer Son said that both the first-instance hearing and the appeal hearing failed to meet international standards for fair trial. The court’s decisions were based on statements of police officers while the judge rejected the requests of the defendant and his lawyer to use the video clips made by Binh and his fellows which can prove that the activist had done nothing to be accused of resisting on-duty officials as well as abusing the right to freedom of democracy as evidents of the hearing.
The arrest and conviction of Binh are part of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on dissidents, human rights defenders, social activists and bloggers.
Dozens of activists have been convicted and sentenced to lengthy imprisonments of between three and 16 years. Among convicted are prominent human rights advocate Nguyen Van Dai, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison and five years of probation, and many senior members of the unregistered organization Brotherhood for Democracy.
===== April 25 =====
Vietnam Anti-corruption Activist, Citizen Journalist Do Cong Duong Charged with Abusing Democratic Freedoms
Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Vietnam’s northern province of Bac Ninh have changed the charge against local anti-corruption campaigner and citizen journalist Do Cong Duong from “causing public disorders” to “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.
Hanoi-based lawyer Ha Huy Son, who was hired by Mr. Duong’s family to provide legal counsel for him, said the accusation was changed on April 16, three months after the activist was detained.
Mr. Duong, 54, was arrested on January 26 when he was filming a land seizure in the commune of Tam Son in Tu Son town.
Mr. Nguyen Huu My, 70, a retired state official and friendof Duong’s, said on that day he and Mr. Duong had gonetogether to Tu Son town and they saw many police and militia participated in seizing land of residents in Chuc village. The two guys took their cell phones and filmed the scence.
Three minutes later, police detected their filming activities and detained Duong, took him to the Tu Son town police’s headquarters.
On the 9th day of detention, Tu Son police informed Duong’s family that he was charged with “causing public disorders.”
Charged with “Abusing democratic freedoms,” Mr. Duong facesimprisonment of up to seven years, if convicted, according to current Vietnamese law.
Mr. Duong is a land rightsactivist. Together with other local residents, he filled a letter to the state’s leaders accusingTu Son town’s government of illegal land seizure.
Duong is also a citizen journalist, producing hundreds of video clips and postingon his Facebook account to report local officials’ corruption and cronyism, including provincial communist leader Nguyen Nhan Chien, who has big houses and haspromoted numerous relatives to key positions in province’s agencies. The state-run media has also covered news affirming the information uncoveredby Mr. Duong.
Due to his anti-corruption activities, Duong and his family have been suppressed by local authorities. He was summoned to the police station for interrogation many times. Police also came to his private residence to threaten him.
His house has been attacked with dirty messes while his children have been discriminated in schools.
The arrest and charge of Duong are likely reprisal for his efforts to fight illegal land grabbing and state officials’ corruption, said his fellow My while lawyer Son said authorities in Bac Ninh and Tu Son are seeking to silence the anti-corruption activist and citizen journalist without respecting the country’s law and the presumption of innocence.
Land grabbing is a systemic problem in Vietnam where all land belongs to the state and local residents onlypossess theright to use it. The central government and local governemtns are authorized to seize any land from citizens for socio-economic development without paying adequate compensation.
In many localities, authorities have grabbed local residents’ land at very low compensation prices and givenit to property and industrial developers at prices much higher.
Thousands of farmers losing their land in that way are gathering in big cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to demand justice. The land petitioners are treated like second-class residents by the government. They are living in streets and houseswith cheap rentalfees, subjected toof torture and arbitrary detention by security forces.
===== April 27 =====
Vietnam Activists Face Arrest Threat as Government Continues Crackdown
Defend the Defenders: Dozens of Vietnamese activists are facing the threat of arrest as the communist government continues its crackdown on local dissentsafter aseries of detentions and convictions.
The unsanctioned Brotherhood for Democracy is the main target of the government’s campaign startingin late 2015 with the arrest of its founder, prominent human rights advocate Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Le Thu Ha.
After detentions and convictions of ten key members of the online pro-democracy group, the government is likely willing to arrest other members. Some sources said 48 other members of the organization are targetted.
Mai Van Tam and Le Trung Hieu, two members of the group from the central region, have been summoned to local police stations for interrogation about their memberships as activities which aim to promote human rights and multi-party democracy.
Some activists have been forced to go into hiding in a bid to avoid being arrested, Defend the Defenders has learned.
Vietnam has arrested over 50 activists since late 2015 when the ruling communist party prepared for its 12th National Congress, in which many police generals were promoted to key positions in the country’s leadership.
So far, around 40 activists have been convicted on vague allegations of the national security provisions of the country’s Penal Code, and sentenced to lengthy imprisonments of between three and 16 years in prison. So far this year, 19 activists have been tried and sentenced to a total 156 years and six months in jail and 46 years of probation.
Vietnam still holds many activists in pre-trial detention for months, uncluding Luu Van Vinh, Nguyen Van Duc Do, Dao Quang Thuc and Le Dinh Luong who were arrested and charged with subversion under Article 79 of the 1999 Penal Code with life imprisonment or even death penalty if convicted.
Vietnam is holding around 170 prisoners of conscience, according to a coalition consisting of BPSOS, Civil Rights Defenders and Defend the Defenders and 11 other international NGOs.
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