Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for July 16-22, 2018: Trial against Pro-democracy Advocate Le Dinh Luong Scheduled on July 30

Defend the Defenders | July 22, 2018


Vietnam’s authorities will try pro-democracy activist and human rights defender Le Dinh Luong on allegation of subversion on July 30, more than one year after his arrest on July 24 last year.

The trial will be carried out by the People’s Court of Nghe An province. It is unclear whether his relatives will be permitted to attend his first-instance hearing which is open for public.

Two weeks ahead of the trial, his lawyer Ha Huy Son and Dang Dinh Manh got approval from the authorities to meet with him in Nghi Kim temporary detention facility to prepare for his defense.

Mr. Luong’s sentence is expected to be hard as Vietnam’s communist regime has given lengthy sentences to many other activists convicted with the same charge in recent months.

On July 21, authorities in the central city of Hue expelled social activist Le My Hanh, who moved to the city several months ago with a plan to set up her bussiness there. Police told her that she is not welcome to the city before forcing her to go in a inter-city bus.

On July 20, the People’s Court in Ho Chi Minh City decided to deport William Anh Nguyen, a Vietnamese American arrested on June 10 while participating in a peaceful demonstration in the city.

Two days ahead of his trial, Human Rights Watch called on Vietnam’s communist regime to free him and other protestors participating in peaceful demonstrations in June.

Prominent human rights defender Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh continues her hunger strike. She started her fast on July 7 to protest inhumane treatments in prison.

===== July 17 =====

Lawyer Gets Approval to Meet with Pro-democracy ActivistLe Dinh Luongto Prepare for His Defense after One Year of Detention

Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Vietnam’s central province of Nghe An have issued a letter allowing Ho Chi Minh City-based lawyer Dang Dinh Manh to meet with his client jailed pro-democracy campaigner Le Dinh Luong to prepare for his defense.

According to the letter of the province’s People’s Procuracy dated on July 4, Mr. Manh is permitted to meet with Mr. Luong in Nghi Kim temporary detention facility where the latter has been held incommunicado since being detained on July 24 last year.

The move means that the investigation against Mr. Luong ended and he will be tried soon on allegation of “Carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the 1999 Penal Code.

Currently, lawyer Manh is in his business trip in the US and he is expected to return to Vietnam in late July.

Mrs. Nguyen Xoan, the daughter-in-law of the imprisoned activist told Defend the Defenders that her family has hired lawyer Manh and Hanoi-based lawyer Ha Huy Son to provide legal assistance for her father-in-law, however, lawyer Son has not yet received approval from Nghe An province’s authorities to meet with his client.

Authorities in Nghe An have held Mr. Luong incommunicado for nearly one year.

Mrs. Xoan told Defend the Defenders that her family has no information about him since his arrest inlate July last year. Her family has not been permitted to send him some medical products he needs for some diseases.

His relatives were brutallybeaten by the local policeseveral times when they requested for meeting with him.

In mid Agust last year, his relatives and friends went to the headquarters of the Nghe An province’s Department of Public Security to ask about him, police placed 15 of them, including female, to a closed room and brutally beat them.

One month earlier, four days after the Nghe An police kidnapped Luong and later announced the probe against him, police in Ho Chi Minh City also assaulted Mrs. Xoan and her husband Le Dinh Hieu, son of the detained activist.

Mr. Luong, 53, is a veteran in the war against China’s invasion of Vietnam’s northern region in 1980s. State media reported that Mr. Luong is an extremely dangerous element belonging to the U.S.-based Viet Tan (Vietnam Reform Party) which is labeled by Vietnamese authorities as a terrorist organization.

According to the Nghe An police, Mr. Luong once called for boycotting the elections of the parliament and local People’s Councils while capitalizing on the environmental disasters caused by Formosa to cause social disorders and instigate demonstrations.

Mr. Luong himself was attacked by under-covered policemen in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong in August 2015 when he visited Tran Minh Nhat, who then completed his sentence on alleged subversion. Many other activists were also beaten in that incident.

Thearrest of Luong is part of Vietnam’s intensified crackdown on local political dissidents, human rights advocates, social activists and online bloggers.Since 2017, more than 50 activists have been arrested and charged with vague articles in the national security provisions such as subversion and “conducting anti-state propaganda” of the Penal Code. Most of them have been convicted and sentenced to severe imprisonments up to 16 years in prison.

Among convicted are prominent human rights attorney Nguyen Van Dai, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison and five years of probation, human rights defender Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, a well-known blogger with penname Mother Mushroom, who was given ten years in prison, and environmentalist and labor activist Hoang Duc Binh, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

If convicted, Luong face imprisonment of up to life imprisonment or even death punishment, according to the current Vietnamese law.

===== July 18 =====

HRW Urges Vietnam to Release Protesters Detained During June Peaceful Demonstration

Defend the Defenders: Vietnamese authorities should drop criminal charges and release William Anh Nguyen, a Vietnamese American, and other Vietnamese citizens who were arrested for their peaceful participation in protests in Ho Chi Minh City last month, Human Rights Watch said in its press release on July 18.

The call was made two days ahead of the trial of William Anh Nguyen who is charged with “disrupting public order” under Article 318 of the 2015 Penal Code. He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.

“William Anh Nguyen and others face unfair trials and long sentences before Communist Party-controlled courts for exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and expression,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director.

“Vietnamese authorities should immediately drop the criminal charges, release Nguyen and others arrested, and respect the fundamental rights that Vietnam has agreed to uphold,” he said.

Vietnam’s state television aired a clip a week after Nguyen’s arrest in which he admitted to violating Vietnamese law and promised that he would not participate in activities that oppose the government.

“Human Rights Watch is very concerned that Nguyen’s public statement violated his due process rights and may have been coerced,” Robertson said. “Televised ‘confessions’ of this kind are a shameful tactic used by oppressive governments to intimidate critical voices into silence and flaunt their disregard for fundamental rights.”

Full press release: Vietnam: US Citizen in Televised ‘Confession’

===== July 20 =====

Vietnam Court Rules to Deport American Student Detained at Protest

Time: A court in communist Vietnam on Friday ordered the release and deportation of American student Will Nguyen, who was detained last month during an anti-China protest.

Nguyen, a 32 year-old Houston native, was charged with “causing public disorder” at protests on June 10 in Ho Chi Minh City.

The charged carried a potential penalty of up to seven years in prison, but the attorney general recommended to judges that Nguyen be deported back to the U.S. since it was the first time he committed a wrongdoing in the country, according to an Amnesty International source present at the hearing.

“MAJOR UPDATE: WILL IS COMING HOME!!!” read a post on a Facebook page set up by Nguyen’s friends and family to raise awareness of his detention, confirming that he would be returning home.

A Yale graduate of Vietnamese descent, Nguyen was arrested last month during mass demonstrations in Vietnam’s southern business hub. Prompted by fears of Chinese encroachment, thousands of people in cities across Vietnam reportedly flooded the streets in backlash against protest government plans to allow foreign companies long-term leases in the country’s special economic zones. The leases would be dominated by investors from China, with which Vietnam has a contentious relationship.

A police statement said Nguyen incited others to protest and attempted to turn over a police truck, Reuters reports.

Video footage from the June 10 protests shows Nguyen with a bloodied face as a group of plain-clothed officers beat and drag him along the road. More than 100 other protesters were arrested in Binh Thuan Province, outside Ho Chi Minh City, after storming a government building, according to the New York Times.

Freedom of assembly is protected by Vietnam’s constitution, but the communist country tolerates little dissent and police often disband protests. According to Human Rights Watch, 2017 was one of the harshest years for dissidents in Vietnam; at least 41 activists were arrested and 24 convicted. This year, at least 26 known activists have been convicted since May. Vietnam has more than 140 political prisoners.

“We are pleased that William Nguyen will be reunited and returning home with his family,” said Francisco Bencosme, Asia Pacific advocacy manager at Amnesty International, in a statement to TIME. “However we don’t believe he should have been detained and charged in the first place for freely expressing himself and exercising his right to protest.”

Nguyen apologized on state television last month for breaking the law and promised not to participate in further “anti-state activities.” Detained since his arrest, Nguyen’s trial was his first public appearance since the televised confession. Vietnam’s single-party government has been known to make a show of accused criminals in public confessions, sometimes by coercion or in exchange for more lenient sentences.

Nguyen was visiting Ho Chi Minh City ahead of his graduation this summer from a master’s program at the from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the University of Singapore. He had been live-tweeting the event up until his arrest.

His trial comes two weeks after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo raised the case with senior Vietnamese officials during his Asia trip and pushed for “a speedy resolution,” Reuters reports. Nguyen’s family and friends had previously called on the Trump Administration to intervene.

“I take great comfort in knowing that my constituent, William Nguyen, will soon be reunited with his family after his harrowing ordeal in Vietnam,” read a statement from California Congressman Jimmy Gomez, who led a bipartisan letter with 19 House and Senate members urging Pompeo to secure Nguyen’s safe and swift return. “The sheer determination and resolve exhibited by the Nguyen family during this traumatic experience was nothing short of inspiring.”

Nguyen was granted consular access on June 15, June 29 and July 13.

According to local media, a court in Binh Thuan province last week sentenced six Vietnamese nationals to 18 to 30 months in jail for clashing with police.


Jailed Mother Mushroom Continues Hunger Strike

Prominent human rights defender Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, well-known blogger with penname Mother Mushroom, continues her hunger strike in the Prison camp No. 5 in Yen Dinh district, Thanh Hoa province.

The activist started her hunger strike on July 7 to protest inhumane treatment of the prison. She was placed in a cell with two other female inmates, one of them continously cursed her and threatened to beat her.

Although the prison’s authorities agreed to place her to another room as she requested, Quynh continues her action to protest extremely “deplorable prison conditions and no privacy when [using the bathroom and the toilet]”

“They moved me to another cell that is exposed to every cell around it, those in the cells around it could see everything in my cell, yet the toilet in my cell has no door,” she told her mother via telephone.

You can get more information about the activist here.


German Legislator Gyde Jensen Seeks for Release of Imprisoned HRD Nguyen Bac Truyen

Chair of German Parliament Human Rights Committee Ms Gyde Jensen has reportedly sought for release of Mr. Nguyen Bac Truyen, who had sentenced to 11 years in prison and three years under house arrest for his pro-democracy and human rights activities.

On July 5, Ms. Jensen met with Vietnamese Ambassador to Germany Mr. Doan Xuan Hung in Berlin, as part of her campaign to free Mr. Truyen.

Mr. Truyen, 50, was convicted in April and the Higher People’s Court in Hanoi upheld his sentence in his appeal hearing on June 4.

Mr. Truyen was recently moved from B14 detention center in Hanoi to An Diem Prison camp in Quang Nam province, over 800 km from Ho Chi Minh City where his family resides.

===== July 21 =====

Pro-democracy Advocate Le Dinh Luong’s Trial Set on July 30

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s authorities have deciđe to hold the first-instance hearing of pro-democracy campaigner and human rights defender Le Dinh Luong on allegation of “Carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the 1999 Penal Codeon July 30.

The trial will be carried out by the People’s Court of Nghe An provinc, more than one year after his arrest on July 24, 2017.

Mr. Luong, 53, has been kept incommunicado since being detained last year. Recently, his lawyers Ha Huy Son and Dang Dinh Manh got approval from the authorities to meet with him in the Nghi Kim temporary detention facility under the authority of the Nghe An province to prepare for his defense, his daughter-in-law Nguyen Xoan told Defend the Defenders.

Hanoi-based attorney Son is scheduled to go to meet with his client on July 24 while Ho Chi Minh City-based lawyer Dang Dinh Manh is on his trip to the US and it is unclear whether he can attend the trial.

The arrest of Mr. Luong is part of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on local dissent which started in late 2015 with the detention of prominent human rights attorney Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Ms. Le Thu Ha.

Vietnam arrested 41 activists and has detained seven others so far this year. Nearly 30 of them have been convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms up to 15 years.

Mr. Luong is facing life imprisonment and even death punishment if is convicted.

For more information on his case, please go to our website: Le Dinh Luong


Authorities in Central City of Hue Expel Pro-democracy Activist Le My Hanh

Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Vietnam’s central city of Hue have expeled pro-democracy campaigner and human rights defender Le My Hanh, forcing her to leave the city without taking her items with exception of a old cell phone, the victim said in a video clip posted on her Facebook account.

Ms. Hanh said she was put in an inter-city bus which heads to Ho Chi Minh City. She has no money nor personal documents.

Ms. Hanh, an activist from Hanoi, moved to Ho Chi Minh City last year. In recent month, she has rent an apartment in the old capital city of Hue for her online trading business there.

In early morning of July 21, two under-covered police came to her apartment and accused her of selling low-quality goods. Police in uniform quickly appeared and took her to a loca police station.

After a rude interrogation in which the local police told her that she is not welcome in the location, police took her to a bus station and forced her to get in an inter-city bus which later moved to the country’s southern economic hub. The bus driver was told not to allow her to leave the bus until its final destination.

Hanh successfully escaped when the bus stopped at a restaurant in Quang Nam province for breakfast. She crossed the rice field behind the restaurant to a residential area and called her friends for help.

At the early morning of July 22, Hanh came back to her apartment in Hue but she cannot get in as the lock was filled with iron matters.

Ms. Hanh is the activist beaten two times by government loyalistswithin one month last year as reprisal of her social activities. Police have yet to complete their investigation on her case.

Hue City is among many Vietnamese localities where local authorities have persecuted to silence local activists or tried to expel them out of their territories.

Catholic priest Phan Van Loi from the city has reported that plainclothes agents have attacked his private house with bricks, stones and dirty substances along with blocking him from meeting with other activists as well as participating in religious events.

From late June until early July, authorities in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong deployed under-covered police to attack the private residence of labor activist Do Thi Minh Hanh with stones, bricks, hand-made bomb and toxic gas in a bid to force to leave her father’s house.