Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report on July 9-15, 2018: Vietnam’s Court Upholds Prison Sentences for Trio of Vietnam Reviving Campaign

 

Defend the Defenders| July 15, 2018

On July 10, the Higher People’s Cout in Hanoi rejected the appeal of three members of the unsanctioned organization Vietnam Reviving Campaign,Vu Quang Thuan, Nguyen Van Dien and Tran Hoang Phuc, upholding the prison sentences of the trio given by the People’s Court of Hanoi in their trial on January 31 this year.

Accordingly, Mr. Thuan, 52, and Mr. Dien, 35, will have to remainin prison until early March of 2025 and September of 2023, respectively while Mr. Phuc, president of the Vietnam Students Association for Human Rights, will stay behind bar until late June 2023.

Convicted of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code, Mr. Thuan was sentenced to eight years in prison and five years under house arrest while Mr. Dien was given six years and six months,and Mr. Phuc was sentenced to six years in prison, with an additional four years of probation for both.

One day after the appeal hearing, the US Embassy in Hanoi issued a statement condemning the court’s decision and called for their immediate and unconditional release.

Defend the Defenders has learned that Mr. Nguyen Trung Linh, a Hanoi-based pro-democracy campaigner arrested in late May, is officially charged with “Making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code. He is held in the Temporary detention facility No. 2 under the authority of the Hanoi police.Hispre-trial detention will last three months at least. He may face imprisonment of up to 20 years if is convicted, according to the current Vietnamese law.

Prominent human rights defender Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, well-known by thepenname Mother Mushroom, continues her hunger strike for the 6th day in Prison camp No. 5 in Thanh Hoa province although the prison’s authorities agreed to transfer her in another cell as she requests. Her hunger strikeaims atprotestinginhumane treatment inprison.

Vietnam said three foreign tech companies Facebook, Google and Youtube have removed thousands of video clips and postings which are harmful for the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam. Particularly, Google has removed nearly 6,700 video clips out of 7,800 video clips from YouTube as of June 31 while Facebook has blocked nearly 1,000 links out of proposed 5,500 which had violated Vietnam’s law, according to the Ministry of Information and Communication.

Vietnam continues to send convicted activists to prisons far from their families. After their appeal hearing on June 4 in which the Higher People’s Court in Hanoi upheld their lengthy sentences, Mr. Nguyen Trung Ton was transferred to Dak Trung Prison camp in Dak Lak, Mr. Nguyen Bac Truyen to An Diem Prison camp in Quang Nam and Mr. Pham Van Troi to Ba Sao Prison camp in Ha Nam province. The long distances between the prisons and the locations where their family live will cause difficulties for their families to conduct regular meetings and supply additional food for them.

Defend the Defenders, BPSOS, Vietnamese Women for Human Rights, Vietnam – Coalition Against Torture, andCon Dau Parishioners Associationsubmitted a joint report on Vietnam’s human rights to the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights aheadof theUniversal Periodic Review of Vietnam slated forJanuary next year.

and other important news

===== July 9 =====

DTD Joined Other NGOs to Submit Report on Vietnam ahead of UPR

Defend the Defenders (DTD) has collaborated with BPSOS, Vietnamese Women for Human Rights, Vietnam – Coalition Against Torture, and Con Dau Parishioners Association to produce a joint report on Vietnam’s human rights forVietnam’s 3rd cycle before theUniversal Periodic Review, slated in January next year.

In the joint report sent to the UN OHCHR earlier this week, the five independent organizations raised a number of issues regarding Vietnam’s human rights situation, including the severity of the amended 2015 Penal Code, freedom of expression and assembly, inhumane treatment of prisoners of conscience and detainees in political cases, and the government’s violations of religious freedom.

The groups made nine recommendations for the Vietnamese government:

– Revise the 2015 Penal Code to remove controversial Articles 109, 116, 117, 118, 121 and 331;

– Ensure that freedom of expression is protected both offline and online by amending or removing vague national security and public order provisions in the penal code and in other legislations, particularly the newly passed Cybersecurity Law, to make sure that limitations on freedom of expression are strictly in line with ICCPR and all other human rights treaties that Vietnam is a state-party of;

– End harassment, surveillance, detention, and physical violence against individuals who exercise their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, and religion or belief;

– Make registration of religious organizations optional, instead of mandatory, so as to eliminate obstacles and restrictions to the right to guarantee freedom of religion or belief;

– Strictly implement regulations of the Criminal Procedure Code and Law on Custody and Detention to ensure the rights of detainees arerespected in compliance with UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners with regards to prisoners, including prisoners of conscience;

– Immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders, bloggers, journalists, religious and political dissidents detained or imprisoned for their peaceful expression and/or exercising their other civil and political rights;

– Investigate and prosecute all non-state actors, including public security agents acting as non-state actors, that have violated the human rights of others;

– Investigate and prosecute all perpetrators of torture, and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

You can get details from the full report here.

Many other international and domestic NGOs have reportedly submitted their shadow reports on the occasion.

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Hanoi-based Pro-democracy Campaigner Nguyen Trung Linh Charged with “Conducting Anti-state Propaganda”

Defend the Defenders: Pro-democracy campaigner Nguyen Trung Linh has been charged with “Making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code, according to a local activist.

Anti-corruption campaigner and school teacher Do Viet Khoa told Defend the Defenders that he has learned this information from the older brother of Mr. Linh.

Defend the Defenders couldn’t contact Mr. Linh’s brother for verification.

Many activists in Hanoi have tried to contact with Mr. Linh’s wife to get information about him but failed.

Mr. Linh, who posted a statement on his Facebook page on May 25 to call for peaceful demonstrations to protest China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea), was arrested by security forces in late May.

A retired activist said Mr. Linh was arrested on May 27 afterhe appeared in centralHanoi while his neighbors told his friends that the arrest was made in his private apartment on May 28.

The Czech-trained engineer is held in the Temporary detention facility No. 1 under the authority of the Hanoi police which conducted his arrest and searchedhis apartment in Hai Ba Trung district.

Mr. Linh was born in 1967 in the central province of Thanh Hoa and sent to the Czech Republic in mid 1980s to study in a bachelor program. Influenced by the democratic revolution in Eastern Europe in the early 1990s, he worked for a student outlet established by Vietnamese pro-democracy activists in Prague.

After returning in Vietnam in mid 1990s, he was detained by security forces but no charge was made. Later, he was arrested again because of his pro-democracy writing and attempts to establish an organization with other activists. In order to avoid being prosecuted, his family claimed that he had a mental disease, after which he was sent to a mental health facility for a short time instead of jail.

Mrs. Ho Thi Lan, his sister-in-law,said that in the past 20 years, Mr. Linh has been under constant persecution from Hanoi security forces who have maintained close surveillance on him. He has been arrested and placed in detention without being charged many times, she said.

He has been assaulted many times by police who were assigned to follow him, when he met with other activists or took his two children to school, Lan said, adding that in one of these cases they knocked down his motorbike, causing serious head injuries to his older son.

Along with assaulting him, police threatened to take him back to mental health facilities if he continued to write to advocate multi-party democracy.

Hanoi police also disseminated the wrong information saying he is suffering from a mental disease in a bid to isolate him from other activists and people in his area. They have also blocked his economic activities.

Police have also threatened his relatives in order to prevent them from speaking out to support him, Lan noted, adding as a result, few people understand his situation.

Linh had called for the establishment of opposition parties, but police detected and arrested him, she said.

Along with using controversial articles in the national security provisions to arrest and convict political dissidents, Vietnam’s security forces have used other measures to persecute activists, including abduction, torture, close surveillance, and blockage of economic activities.Many political dissidents have been arrested and placed in long detention without being charged and tried.

The detention of Mr. Linh is part of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on local political dissidents, human rights defenders, social activists and bloggers. Around 80 activists have been arrested and convicted in the past few years.

Mr. Linh has been among six activists detained so far this year. Others are Vu Van Hung, member of the Brotherhood for Democracy, Do Cong Duong, anti-corruption activist, and university official Nguyen Duy Son, Facebooker Nguyen Van Quang and independent journalist Le Anh Hung. Duong, Son and Le Anh Hung were charged with “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the 2015 Penal Code while Vu Van Hung was sentenced to one year in prison for inflicting injuries in a trumped-up politically motivated case in early January.

According to current Vietnamese law, thoseaccused under Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code may face imprisonment of up to 20 years.

In the last two years, a number of activistshave beensentenced to between three and ten years on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code which was amended to Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code.

———————

Another Activist in Lam Dong Attacked by Under-covered Police 

Defend the Defenders: Mr. Tran Van Chuc from the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong has been attacked and persecuted by plainclothes agents after he joined peaceful demonstrations against the bill on Special Economic Zones and the law on Cyber Security, according to an articleposted on the website of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN).

Accordingly, in the evening of July 6, three plainclothes agents stormed in his house in Ward 6, Bao Lam district and attacked him.

Theunder-covered police were said to have used wooden bars with steel nails to hit hishandsand legs, causing bruises all over his body. Whenheused his handstocover his head, they broke hisright hand. After assaulting him, they lefthis house.

Due to the assault, his righthand was broken. He also suffered multiple injuries on his body.

The attacks came after he joined a peaceful demonstration on June 10, in which tens of thousands of Vietnamese in many localities rallied on streets to protest the Vietnamese government’s plan to give 99-year land lease to foreign investors.

Chuc said in recent weeks, after the protest, under-cover police had terrorized his private residence, throwing stones, rotten eggs, foul liquid at his house, intimidating him in all sorts of way. They allegedly poisoned his dog anddropped poisonous substances into hishouse’s water containers causing the water to change colour.

The assailants also stole his cellphone.

On June 10, when Chuc joined others in the protest, the local police detained him for hours. Five days later, they detained him again, holding him in custody until the late afternoon of June 17.

Mr. Chuc, 33, is one of many activists in Lam Dong to facepersecution in recent weeks due to their civil engagement. Cao Dai religious leader Mr.Hua Phi, laboractivistMs. Do Thi Minh Hanhand disabledsocial activistMr. Dinh Van Hai have recently been similarly attacked.

===== July 10 =====

Vietnam Court Upholds Sentences of Three Activists of Vietnam Reviving Campaign, Sending Them Back to Prison

Defend the Defenders: On July 10, the Higher People’s Court in Hanoi rejected the appeals of Mr. Vu Quang Thuan, Mr. Nguyen Van Dien and Mr. Tran Hoang Phuc of the Vietnam Reviving Campaign, sending them back to prison with a total 20 years and six months in prison and 13 years under house arrest.

The appeal hearing started at 8 AM and ended at 9 PM Tuesday. Unlike their first-instance hearing on January 31,held by the People’s Court of Hanoi, Mrs. Huynh Thi Ut, the mother of Mr. Phuc, and the parents of Mr. Dien, were allowed to enter the court room.Diplomatic representatives from the EU, the US and other countries were said to observe the hearing in an adjacent room via TV screen, according to one of the lawyers of the defendants.

All the roads leading to the court areas were blocked by police and militia, observers said.

Mr. Thuan and Mr. Dien were arrested in early March 2017 while Mr. Phuc was detained in late June of the same year. The trio were charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code for their posting video clips on social networks such as Facebook and Youtube.

Particularly, Mr. Thuan and Dien were accusedof producing and posting 31 video clips which defame the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam and its leaders, including late President Ho Chi Minh, the founder of the regime. Phuc, a young activist and president of the unsanctioned Vietnam Student Association for Human Rights, was accused to assist Thuan and Dien in posting three video clips on social networks.

The trio were convicted as Thuan was sentenced to eight years in prison and five years under house arrest while Dien was given six years and six months in prison and four years under house arrest. Phuc was sentenced to six years in jail and four years of probation.

The appeal hearing took longerthan the first trial, with more time for the defendants’ lawyers to present their statement to defend their clients. Hanoi-based lawyer Ha Huy Son defendedMr. Thuan and Mr. Dien while Mr. Phuc was representedby seven lawyers including Le Van Luan, Nguyen Van Mieng, Ngo Ngoc Trai and Trinh Vinh Phuc.

Lawyer Ngo Ngoc Trai said the hearing failed to meet international standards for a fair trial as the judge stopped lawyers and defendants from speaking many times during the hearing. He also rejected lawyers’ requests of summoning state officials who examined the contents of defendants’ postings as well as showing the video clips posted by the defendants to examine their contents.

Like in the trial, the defendants reaffirmed that they are not guilty and had only been exercising basic rights enshrined in the country’s 2013 Constitution as well as the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights to which Vietnam is a signatory.

However, the Higher People’s Court in Hanoi rejected the trio’s appeals and upheld their sentences given by the lower court. The court’s decision is final.

The arrest of the trio was part of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on local dissent. They are among 20 activists having been convicted so far this year.

One day prior to the appeal hearing, Amnesty International issued a statementcalling on Vietnam’s government to free them immediately and unconditionally.

“These three men have committed no crime; they have merely used social media to express opinions that the authorities do not like – namely by supporting the protection of human rights and social justice in the country,” said Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Global Operations Minar Pimple.

“Viet Nam’s long-running use of repressive laws to prosecute and punish peaceful activists must end. As a start, Hanoi’s High Court must tomorrow quash all charges against these men and release them,” he noted.

===== July 11 =====

Vietnam Says Facebook, Google and Youtube have RemovedThousands of Posts Harmful to theRuling CommunistParty

Defend the Defenders: Three foreign tech companies Facebook, Google,and Youtube have removed thousands of video clips and postings authorities claimed to beharmful for the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam, Vietnamese Minister of Information and Communication Truong Minh Tuan said earlier this week.

In the ministry’s meeting in Hanoi on July 9 to review its works in the first half of 2018, the minister said the three American companies had acted upon his ministry’s requests.

Particularly, Google has removed nearly 6,700 video clips out of 7,800 video clips from YouTube as of June 31, the ministry said, adding 300 of these videos were related to the environmental disaster in the central coastal region caused by the industrial waste discharge of Formosa steel plant and “extreme behaviors” of affected fishermen, Tuan said.

Six YouTube channels have beentotally blocked, he noted.

At the same time, Facebook has blocked nearly 1,000 links out of a proposed 5,500 allegedlyviolatingVietnameselaw, Minister Tuan said. The world’s biggest social network has blocked 107 fake accounts,137 accounts which had defamed the party and its government, he said.

In addition, Facebook has blocked some links related to Formosa’s tragedy and “extreme”Catholic followers in the affected central region, the minister said.

The ministry has actively worked with Facebook and Google in recent months, Tuan said. After numerous meetings, Facebook pledged to set up a specific channel to deal with Vietnam’s requests on removing posts which violate Vietnameselaw, the minister said.

Meanwhile, Google has committed to obey Vietnameselaw and cooperate with the Vietnamese government in issues of cyber security, he said.

The information unveiled by Tuan, who is a deputy head of the party’s Commission on Propaganda and Education has worried online activists, especially ahead of January2019 when the recently passed Cyber Security Law will become effective.

Vietnam’s parliament approved the law on June 12 despite strong protest fromdomestic and international critics. The law requiresforeign tech companies to open offices in Vietnam and set up data centers in the country tohand over users’ data to Vietnameseauthorities upon requests.

In addition, foreign tech companies are eligible to remove online posts which are considered “harmful” for the Vietnamese regime if the government requests.

In mid-June, in letters sent to Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Samsung, the London-based human rights group Amnesty International urged the companies to take steps to protect against potential human rights violations resulting from the law.

Human Rights Watch also criticized Vietnam’s approval of the law, saying the law built by the Ministry of Public Security is notorious for human rights violations.

Currently, Vietnam is imprisoning ten bloggers and journalists for their online postings, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The number would rise significantly next year, local activists forecast.

===== July 12 =====

Mother Mushroom’s Hunger Strike Continues in Prison for 6th Day

Defend the Defenders: Prominent Vietnamese human rights defender Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, dissident blogger popularly known asMother Mushroom, continues her hunger strike for the 6th day in prison although the authorities of the Prison camp No. 5 had agreed to meet one of her requests.

Mrs. Nguyen Thi Tuyet Lan, mother of the jailed activist unveiled this information after a short meeting on July 12 with Mother Mushroom who is serving her 10-year imprisonment in the Prison camp No. 5 located in Yen Dinh district, Thanh Hoa province.

During the meeting, Quynh told her mother that the prison’s authorities moved her to another cell but the new cell is not private enough as her activities can be observed from outside.

Mrs. Lan said she is very worried about her daughter’s health.

On July 6, Quynh telephoned from the prison to her mother saying she would stop eating prison food and the food supplied by her mother in a bid to protest the prison’s inhumane treatment against her. Particularly, she said she is under threat as one of the two inmates in their shared cell is cursing her all times.

The human rights campaigner reportedly asked to meet with the prison’s authorities to settle problems she is facing but the authorities had denied.

Since being transferred to the prison in February, Quynh has been under constant mental torture byprison’s authorities. Sometimes she is placed in solitary confinementwithout proper ventilation and sunlight.

She conducted her first hunger strike in May to protest the prison’s denialof her right to communication with her family by mails.

Weeks before conducting the second hunger strike, she stopped eating food supplied by the prison because she often got food poisoning after consuming the prison food.

Quynh, the mother of two children, was arrested on October 10, 2016 and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code for her online postings on police brutality, country’s sovereignty, environmental pollution,and other issues.

In June 2017, she was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Her conviction has met strong international and domestic condemnation.

Marking the anniversary of her first trial, June29, 2017, the NGO Vietnam VOICE launched a documentary film on Quynh titled When Mother’s Awayat the Foreign Correspondent’s Club Thailand (FCCT) in Bangkok on June 27. However, a second planned screening the following week was cancelled at the last minute by Thai police, acting under pressure from the Vietnamese embassy. This is at least the third such incident of Vietnamese embassy intervention of FCCT events on Vietnam in two years.

Quynh is a brave human rights defender and independent journalist. She has been honored with the 2010 Hellman/Hammett award by New York-based Human Rights Watch, the 2015 Civil Rights Defender of the Yearawardby the Stockholm-based CivilRights Defenders, the United States Department of State International Women of Courage Award in 2017,and 2018 International Press Freedom Award of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

On July 3, CPJ issued a statement calling on Vietnam to release Quynh immediately and unconditionally.

“Vietnamese authorities must put an immediate stop to the deliberate psychological abuse of jailed Vietnamese journalist Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s Southeast Asia representative. “As long as Quynh remains behind bars, the world will view Vietnam as an unconscionable abuser of basic human rights.”

In late June, on the occasion to mark one year of Quynh’s conviction, Civil Rights Defenders issued a statement reiterating its call for her freedom.

The living conditions in Vietnam’s prisons are hard. Inmates, especially prisoners of conscience,routinelyface alack of food, hygene and medical services. In addition, prison authorities useguards and criminal inmates to terrorizeand beat jailed activists. Many activists have conducted hunger strikes to protest inhumane treatment of prisons.

Jailed activists are often sent to prison camps far from their families which meet difficulties in making prison visits and supplying them with additional food and other basic things.

——————–

Convicted Key Members of BFD Transferred to Prisons Far from Their Families

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s authorities have transferred jailed Protestant pastor Nguyen Trung Ton and businessman Nguyen Bac Truyen to prisons far from ther families, one month after the Higher People’s Court in Hanoi rejected their appeals.

Pastor Ton was transferred to Dak Trung Prison camp in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak, about 1,000 km from his native province of Thanh Hoa where his family lives.

Meanwhile, Mr. Truyen was taken to An Diem Prison camp in the central province of Quang Nam, about 850 km from Ho Chi Minh City where his wife stays.

Earlier this month, Vietnam’s authorities also transferred engineer Pham Van Troi, 46, to Ba Sao Prison Camp, about 100 km far from his family in Hanoi.

The trio are founders of the online group Brotherhood for Democracy, together with prominent human rights defender Nguyen Van Dai.

Ton, Truyen,and Troi as well as veteran journalist and labor activist Truong Minh Duc were arrested on July 30 last year and charged with subversion under Article 79 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code. Mr. Dai and his assistant Le Thu Ha who were detained in late December 2015 under allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” also were charged with subversion.

At their trial carried out by the People’s Court of Hanoi on April 5 this year, Mr. Ton and Mr. Duc were sentenced to 12 years in prison and three years under house arrest each while Mr. Truyen was given 11 years in prison and three years of probation. Mr. Troi was sentenced to seven years in prison and one year of house arrest.

At their appeal hearing on June 4, the Higher People’s Court in Hanoi upheld their sentences.

Mr. Dai and Ms. Ha were given 15 years and nine years in prison by the People’s Court of Hanoi, but they were released in mid-June and forced to live in exile in Germany.

Last week, Mr. Duc was transferred to Prison camp No. 6 in Thanh Chuong district, Nghe An province, about 1,200 km from Ho Chi Minh City. His wife lives in the Vietnamese biggest economic hub.

The five men were former prisoners of conscience before being re-arrested.

In early March 2017, Mr. Ton was brutally beaten by under-covered policemen when he visited the central province of Quang Binh. The assaulters broke his two legs which were still injuried on the day he was arrested.

In recent days, his daughter has been hospitalized for treatment and her life threatened.

Mr. Duc and Mr. Truyen were also beaten many times by plainclothes agents in years before being re-arrested.

Vietnam’s communist government has a policy to transfer prisoners of conscience to prisons far from their families as additional punishment for their human rights and pro-democracy activities. Their families find difficulties to visit and supply them with additional food and other basic needs given the fact that the living conditions in Vietnam’s prisons are hard. Inmates, especially prisoners of conscience,routinelyface alack of food, hygene and medical services.

===== 12/7 =====

Protestant Pastor Dinh Diem Imprisoned on Allegation of Subversion

Defend the Defenders: On July 12, the People’s Court in the central province of Quang Ngai convicted Protestant pastor Dinh Diem on allegation of being “‘engaged in subversive activities to overthrow the people’s government” under Article 109 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code.

Pastor Diem, belonging to an unsanctioned Lutheran Church, was sentenced to 16 years in prison by the court, according to the state media.

He was arrested on January 5 this year. He was said to join a US-based organisation called “Vietnam’s Provisional Government” led by Vietnamese American Dao Minh Quan.

State media has also reported that 12 other members of Vietnam’s Provisional Government will be tried under the same charge on July 16-19.

Pastor Diem was a member of the unregistered organization Vietnam Inter-faith Council which works for enhancing the right to freedom of religions and beliefs. Vietnam’s authorities have forced him to withdraw from the organization.

He was also a member of Fulro, an organization of ethnic minorities fighting for autonomyof the indigenouspeople in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Vietnam’s communist regime considers Fulro as a reactionary group.

For more information: Mục sư Tin Lành Lutheran bị án tù với cáo buộc ‘hoạt động nhằm lật đổ chính quyền’

===== July 14 =====

US Citizen Held in Vietnam on Public Order Charges to Face Trial July 20

RFA: A U.S. citizen beaten and arrested in Vietnam last month for taking part in rare, large-scale protests will go on trial next week on charges of disturbing public order, state media said on Friday.

William Nguyen, a graduate student of Vietnamese descent from Houston, Texas, will go to trial on July 20 and could face a seven-year prison term if convicted, media reports said.

Nguyen was beaten by police and detained on June 10 in Ho Chi Minh City, also called Saigon, after attending what began the day before as a peaceful protest over government plans to grant long-term leases to foreign companies operating in special economic zones (SEZs).

News of the proposed concessions had stirred public fears that the leases would go to Chinese-owned firms.

In tweets posted from the rallies, Nguyen had described clashes between citizens and the police.

But quoting the indictment against Nguyen, Vietnam’s state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper said on Friday that the American student had also urged protesters to overrun police barricades as they marched toward the city center.

On June 18, Nguyen apologized on state television for his presence at the demonstrations and promised to stay away from protests in the future.

‘Prepared for the worst’

Speaking on Friday to RFA’s Vietnamese Service, Nguyen’s sister Victoria Nguyen said that she was upset when a visit to Vietnam this week by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo failed to secure her brother’s release.

“How can you say that Vietnam and the U.S. have this great relationship and everything’s going great, when you know what they’re doing, and you’re not acknowledging that part of the whole human rights aspect?” she asked.

“So it’s upsetting, because you assume that the government’s going to stand up for you as a citizen, but they don’t.”

Throughout what she called the “turns and twists” of her brother’s case, she has always been “prepared for the worst,” she said.

“You know, it could be a fine and they’ll let him go, or it could be jail for several years, and it’s not really a due process with the Vietnamese court system.”

“I honestly don’t know what to expect,” she said.

US Citizen Held in Vietnam on Public Order Charges to Face Trial July 20

===== July 15 =====

DTD Joins Other Civil Society Organizations, Individuals to Call on Vietnam to Reverse Death Sentence in Land Dispute Killings

Defend the Defenders (DTD) and 17 other civil society organizations and more than 100 individuals have jointly call on Vietnam’s authorities to reverse the death penalty imposed on farmer Dang Van Hien in a land dispute case in Dak Nong province which led to the deaths of three persons in October 2016.

The petition initiated by the Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience, was started earlier this week after the Higher People’s Court in Ho Chi Minh City upheld the death sentence handed down to the farmer in his appeal hearing on July 12.

Earlier this year, on January 4, the People’s Court of Dak Nong province convicted Mr. Hien for the shooting deaths ofthree employees and for causinginjuries to 13 others of Long Son Co.

The higher court rejected the appeal of Hien, 42, with the judges saying that the consequences of his crime were too grave and there was insufficient reason to commute his death sentence. The judges also rejected appeals filed by families of two of the victims that Hien’s death sentence be commuted.

In their petition released few days after the appeal hearing, the 18 civil society organizations and 116 individuals asked President Quang and the Supreme Court undertake a “serious review” of the verdict against Hien, who they said opened fire “as a last resort after suffering a lengthy period of repression and sabotage.”

The sentence handed to Hien was “too heavy and unfair,” the petition said, adding that as Vietnamese citizens, the signatories “demand justice from the government.”

Land disputes are the main source of protests in one-party Communist Vietnam, where dissent is not tolerated.

Such disputes accounted for 70% of all complaints lodged against the government in 2012, according to state media, and remain the top reason for complaints by Vietnamese citizens, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said at a meeting last year.

Further information on the case:

Capital punishment upheld for Vietnamese man in land dispute killing

Vietnam farmers get death, long jail terms for murder in deadly land row

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