Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for August 20-26, 2018: Jailed Activists Nguyen Van Hoa, Nguyen Viet Dung Claim They Were Tortured for Coerced Confession


Defend the Defenders| August 26, 2018

Jailed activists Nguyen Van Hoa and Nguyen Viet Dung have claimed that they had been tortured for coerced confession during interrogations related to pro-democracy campaigner and environmentalist Le Dinh Luong, who was convicted and sentenced to the record imprisonment of 20 years in prison in the trial against him on August 16.

The two activists made their statements about the police’s torture at the trial against Mr. Luong, said the latter’s lawyers Ha Huy Son and Dang Dinh Manh. Particularly, Hoa and Dung said they were forced to make false confession against Mr. Luong by saying Luong represented the banned Vietnam Reform Party (Viet Tan) in recruiting Hoa as its member.

In response to the two activists’ claim, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement to condemn Vietnam’s abuse of imprisoned videographer Nguyen Van Hoa, and call on Vietnamese authorities to stop beating and harassing jailed journalists.

Many jailed activists have complained of being inhumanely treated while serving their sentences in prison. While Mrs. Tran Thi Nga said she is under physical and mental torture in Gia Trung prison camp in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai, young activist Tran Hoang Phuc, who was transferred to An Phuoc prison camp in the southern province of Binh Duong, asked his mother to supply him with detoxification substance. Under close monitoring of prison’s guards, his mother couldn’t ask him to clerify the reason for his demand and which substances he needs.

Vietnam’s authorities continue its crackdown on local dissent by convicting more people. On August 22, the People’s Court of Phan Rang-Thap Cham city jailed four local residents who participating in the mass demonstration in mid-June with imprisonment terms of between eight months and 24 months in prison on allegation of “causing public disorders” and one day later, the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City convicted two Vietnamese Americans and four Vietnamese citizens on allegation of subversion, giving them lengthy imprisonments of between five and 14 years.

Ms. Pham Doan Trang, who was detained and beaten during the police’s raid of a music concert in HCM City on August 15, is under critical health conditions due to the injuries she suffered from the police’s assaults. While taking medical treatment, she is under close police’s surveillance.

Regarding the raid, Human Rights Watch issued a press release condemning the assaults and requesting Vietnam’s authorities launch thorought and impartial investigation to bring responsible perpetrators accountable.

Mrs. Huynh Thuy Hang, the wife of Hua Hoang Anh, said her husband had committed suicide by using a knife to cut his throat during the house search carried out by the Chau Thanh district police on August 2.

===== August 20 =====

Jailed Young Activist Tran Hoang Phuc Asks His Mother to Supply Him with Detoxification Substances

Defend the Defenders: Young activist Tran Hoang Phuc, who is serving his six-year imprisonment in An Phuoc prison camp in Vietnam’s southern province of Binh Duong, has asked his mother to supply him with substances for detoxification.

He made this request during a meeting with her mother on August 16, eight days after being sent to the prison from B14 temporary detention facility, his mother Huynh Thi Nghia told Defend the Defenders.

She said her son acts strangely, not like in previous visits. However, as their talks were closely monitored by prison’s guards, she couldnt ask him why he made such as request.

Phuc said he is permitted to receive limited number of books printed by the state’s publishing houses, and not allowed to get books in foreign languages.

Both B14 temporary detention facility and An Phuoc prison camp are under the authority of the Ministry of Public Security.

An Phuoc prison camp is the facility holding many political prisoners, including Dinh Dang Dinh, a chemical teacher who was convicted and sentenced because of voicing against China-invested bauxite mining project in the Central Highlands.

Mr. Dinh, who was sentenced to six years in prison on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code, died in March 2014, one month after being released from prison. He died from stomach cancer and he suspected that the disease was caused by chemical-tainted food supplied by the authorities in An Phuoc prison camp.

It is worth noting that political prisoner Huynh Anh Tri, who was freed in early 2014 after spending 14 years in prison on charge of terrorism and subversion, died in July in the same year from HIV disease. He suffered from the deadly disease afterbeingplaced in the same cell with HIV-infected inmates while serving his imprisonment in Xuan Loc Prison camp (Z230) located in the southern province of Dong Nai.

Former political prisoner Tran Hoang Giang, Tri’s fellow, said hundreds of prisoners were forced to use the same razor blade so disease transmission is common in Vietnamese prisons.

===== August 21 =====

Jailed Activists Nguyen Van Hoa, Nguyen Viet Dung Say They Are Tortured for False Confession

Defend the Defenders: Imprisoned activists Nguyen Van Hoa and Nguyen Viet Dung have said that they had been tortured by investigation officers who want them to make false confession against pro-democracy activist Le Dinh Luong, Hanoi-based lawyer Ha Huy Son told Defenders.

Attorney Son, one of two lawyers defending Mr. Luong in his trial on August 16, said that during the first-instance hearing of Mr. Luong, the judge recalled Hoa and Dung as witnesses of the case.

Dung and Hoa were taken to the court separately but both claimed that they were tortured by police officers andforced to testify against against Luong.

Particularly, they were forced to falsely make confession saying Dung and Luong were present at a meeting in Vinh City in which Hoa officially became a member of the Vietnam Reform Party (Viet Tan), a US-based group considered as “terrorist group” by the Vietnamese communist regime.

According to the false confession made in written form, Luong was at the meeting as a member of the group while Dung was a honored guest.

Based on their false confession, the People’s Court of Nghe An convicted pro-democracy campaigner and environmentalist Luong on allegation of “conducting activities aiming to overthrow government” under Article 79 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison and five years under house arrest afterward, the longest sentence given to an activist so far.

Lawyer Son said Dung and Hoa were taken right away after retracting their earlier testimony in court. When Son and Dang Dinh Manh, the second lawyer of Luong, asked to meet with the two witnesses for additional questions, police denied, saying they were ill and not fit for cross-examination.

Five days after the trial, Dung’s father went to Nghi Kim temporary detention facility where Dung is held to conduct a visit but the facility’s authorities said Dung is not permitted to meet with his relatives because he failed to show his cooperation with authorities in Luong’s trial.

In response to the news on Hoa’s torture, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement condemning the abuse of the imprisoned videographer and calling on Vietnamese authorities to stop beating and harassing jailed journalists.

Dung was arrested in late September last year and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code. In April, the People’s Court of Nghe An convicted him and sentenced him to seven years in prison and five years under house arrest. On August 15, the Higher People’s Court in Hanoi reduced his jail sentence to six years.

Hoa was detained in January 2017 and later sentenced to seven years in prison, also on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda.” He was sent to serve his sentence in An Diem prison camp in the central province of Quang Nam.

Torture is systemic in Vietnam although the communist regime ratified the UN Convention against Torture andOther Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) in 2013.

Hundreds of activists and peaceful demonstrators as well as ordinary people were brutally beaten by police officers and plainclothes agents during the mass protest in mid-June at the scene and in custody.

Many criminal suspects were beaten to death in police stations nationwide in the past few years, according to state media.

===== August 22 =====

Ninh Thuan Imprisons Four Local Residents Participating in Mass Demonstration in June

Defend the Defenders: On August 22, the People’s Court of Phan Rang-Thap Cham city, Ninh Thuan province, convicted six local residents for causing public disorders under Article 318 of the 2015 Penal Code while participating in the mass demonstration on June 10-11 which aimed to protest two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security, according to the state media.

The court sentenced Mr. Nguyen Van Nghia, 29, to two years in prison, Ms. Nguyen Thi Lung, 40, to one year in prison, Ms. Nguyen Thi Nhu Hoa, 43, to nine months in prison and Mr. Nguyen Huu Thanh, 27, to eight months in jail.

The court also gave six-month probation to Nguyen Doan Phuoc My and Truong Anh Kiet who are under 18 years old.

So far, Vietnam’s authorities imprisoned 35 protestors who participated in the mass demonstration in mid-June, including 15 in Dong Nai, four in Ninh Thuan and 16 in Binh Thuan, with jail terms between eight months and 42 months.


Human Rights Watch Asks Vietnam to Investigate Assaults against Dissidents in Concert Raid in HCM City on Aug 15

Defend the Defenders: One week after the concert raid in Ho Chi Minh City in which a number of activists were detained and beaten by police officers and plainclothes agents, the New York-based organization Human Rights Watch issued a press release asking Vietnam’s government to investigate the case and bring the responsible accountable.

Local activists reported that in the evening of August 15, around 50 activists and ordinary people attended the music liveshow namely “A Memory of Saigon” of dissident singer and charity campaigner Nguyen Tin in Casanova cafeteria in Ward 7, District 3. Police came to stop the event, detaining and beating many activists, including prominent dissident blogger Pham Doan Trang, singer Nguyen Tin and organizer of the show Nguyen Dai.

The assaulted victims suffered significant injuries, said activists, adding police also confiscated cameras, phones, personal documents and other things of many activists.

Vietnam should conduct an impartial, transparent, and thorough investigation of the attack, said Human Rights Watch in its press release publicized on August 22.

“This kind of shocking and brutal physical assault against human rights activists, bloggers, and artists is rapidly becoming the new normal in Vietnam,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“By failing to investigate or hold accountable those committing these thuggish acts, the authorities are signaling that attacks against dissidents will enjoy impunity,” he said.

The attack at Café Casanova is not an isolated incident, said Human Rights Watch. It is one of a series of recent assaults against activists who are under police surveillance, it said. Other assaults against Vietnamese disssidents uncluded the separate attacks against Mr. Hua Phi, former prisoner of conscience Do Thi Minh Hanh and disable blogger Dinh Van Hai and his friend Vu Tien Chi in Lam Dong province in June.

Regarding the attack in HCM City on August 15, the London-based human rights organization Amnesty International has also called on Vietnam’s authorities to “investigate these serious allegations in line with their obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture.”

Full press release of Human Rights Watch: Vietnam: Activists Beaten in Concert Raid

===== August 23 =====

US Citizen Sentenced to 14 Years in Prison in Vietnam For ‘Subversion’

RFA:The son of a U.S. citizen of Vietnamese origin sentenced to 14 years in prison on Wednesday on subversion charges said he will file an appeal with authorities to request the release of his mother.

Phan Thị Dao, 62, and who goes by the name Phan Angel in the United States, was sentenced to 14 years in prison on charges of engaging in “activities to overthrow the people’s government.”

She has lived in San Diego, California, with her son since 2002 when he sponsored her to come to the U.S., and has made a living as a bridal gown seamstress.

Her son Tommy Le told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that his mother traveled to Vietnam in March 2017 to take care of her dying mother and buried her after she died. Then on April 27 of the same year, authorities arrested Phan on subversion charges.

“The family really doesn’t know how severe the situation is,” Le said. “My mother is elderly, and the sentence is unjustifiable.”

“I just want to request a lighter sentence so that she is expelled and sent back to the U.S.,” he said, adding that he will have lawyers file an appeal within 15 days of Wednesday’s ruling.

“She was so firm; even in court she was as firm as usual,” he said, adding that his mother would not admit to the false chanrge.

A representative from the U.S. consulate in Ho Chi Minh City has been visiting Phan twice a month since her arrest, while she has been imprisoned at Phan Dang Luu detention center, Le said.

“The lawyer from the U.S. consulate does not know what to do about her case,” he said.

Some of Phan’s relatives recently went to see her, but she had been abruptly transferred to Chi Hoa Prison, and authorities said Phan could have no more visitors.

Le said someone named Janet Nguyen sent emails about his mother’s arrest to a U.S. congressional representative from his district, but she did not receive a response.

Nguyen stopped sending the requests, however, because she thought that the representative could do nothing to help Pham, he said.

Le said that his mother’s case is not the same as that of William Nguyen, a 32-year-old graduate student of Vietnamese descent from Houston, Texas, found guilty in July of “disturbing public order” for taking part in rare, large-scale protests over government plans to grant long-term leases to foreign companies operating in special economic zones. A Vietnamese court ordered his deportation to the U.S.

“Will Nguyen’s case is different because he participated in the protests,” Le said. “His case is not ‘subversion’ as is my mother’s case, and so the manner of prosecution is also different.”

“U.S. intervention depends on the charges,” he said. “My mother’s case falls under ‘activities to overthrow the government,’ so the U.S. can only get assurances for her health and security, [but] the legal procedures must be according to Vietnamese law.”

US Citizen Sentenced to 14 Years in Prison in Vietnam For ‘Subversion’

===== August 24 =====

Concern for Vietnamese Blogger Pham Doan Trang After Police Beating, Harassment

RFA:Prominent Vietnamese blogger Pham Doan Trang is struggling to regain her health and faces constant police harassment after she suffered a beating on Aug. 15 when a concert she was attending was broken up by police in Ho Chi Minh City, her editor told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Thursday.

Trang was among at least four activists who were attacked after policemen stormed into a cafe and broke up dissident singer Nguyen Tin’s “Memory of Saigon” show. She was then taken by police to an unknown road outside the city and “beaten further to the point of disfiguring her face,” a fellow activist said last week.Singer Tin was also roughed up.

“The doctors said that her health needs to be monitored closely because at the moment it is hard to know exactly when she will fully recover,” Trinh Huu Long, editor in chief of Luat Khoa magazine, where Trang works as an editor, told RFA,

“There are doctors who monitor her case but Trang has to move constantly to avoid police. This creates more difficulties for her,” he said.

“Police follow her wherever she goes. They ask neighbors about her, and pressure them and visitors. This hinders her access to medical care when needed,” added Long.

Trang, author of book on political engagement titled Politics for Everyone that angered Vietnamese authorities, earlier this year won the Homo Homini Award from People in Need, an international human rights organization based in the Czech Republic.

The New York-based watchdog group Human Rights Watch said the during the Aug. 15 attacks, Trang suffered multiple bruises, nausea, and dizziness and was later diagnosed with a concussion. Friends who tried to visit her in the hospital were harassed and beaten, the rights group said.

“This pattern of brutal physical assaults carried out by shadowy thugs, in apparent coordination with the police, is an intensification of the government’s persecution of political activists,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, Robertson.

“By failing to investigate or hold accountable those committing these thuggish acts, the authorities are signaling that attacks against dissidents will enjoy impunity.”

Trang’s editor Long echoed Robertson about the growing pressure from police on dissenters in Vietnam.

“Harassment and attacks on activists have become more frequent,” he said. “This is an indication that the government will utilize any measure to gag dissidents.”

Meanwhile, in Nghe An province, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, 52, was on the 10th day a hunger strike to protest police pressure on him to plead guilty in exchange for amnesty.

He was jailed in 2010 for 16 years for writing online articles criticizing the government under Article 79 of Vietnam’s penal code and is serving at Prison No. 6 in Nghe An province.

“We have called the prison several times but there was no answer. Our only choice now is to wait for him to call us, because we can’t go visit him until next month and the prison’s authorities won’t give us any information about him,” Thuc’s brother, Tranh Huynh Duy Tan, told RFA.

“We are still working with his lawyer to prepare petitions for him. We demand that the government respect rule of law and apply new a penal code, which is considered more favorable in his case so he can be released soon,” added the brother.

The rights group Amnesty International estimates that at least 97 prisoners of conscience are currently held in Vietnam’s prisons, where many are subjected to torture or other ill-treatment.

===== August 25 =====

Activist Hua Hoang Anh Commits Suicide while Being Questioned by Police: Wife

Defend the Defenders: Hua Hoang Anh, who participated in many peaceful protests in 2014-2018 on various issues, had committed suicide which led to his death in early August, his wife Huynh Thuy Hang told Defend the Defenders.

Mrs. Hang said on August 2, while police in Chau Thanh district, Kien Giang province, conducted house search of their private residence in Binh Loi village, Minh Hoa commune, her husband took a knife to cut his throat. She witnessed the incident and tried to prevent his act but failed.

Her husband was taken to the district general hospital but died on mid way, possible due to blood loss.

Hang said at 9.30 PM of August 1, police came to their house and detained her husband and took him to the district police headquarters for questioning about an explosion carried out by her husband one month before in a field not too far from their house.

Police questioned him overnight and at 10.30 AM of August 2, they took him back to his house and searched it.

She said after his death, police cheated her, telling her that they returned his body to her family for burying, but they took his body to the province’s funeral house for autopcy which lasted more than five hours. Police did not allow her nor other family’s members to participate in the autopcy, and returned his body covered with clothes.

During his funeral, local authorities deployed a large number of police officers and plainclothes to station near his house, banning relatives, friends and local residents from taking pictures and making videos. The photographer hired by the family to record the funeral was forced by police to delete all pictures and videos he made, Hang said.

Police have closely monitored their house before and after his funeral, and paid special attention for people coming from other areas, she said, adding she is still under close surveillance of the police.

Hua Hoang Anh participated in many peaceful demonstrations, including the mass demonstration against two bills Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security in HCM City on June 10, 2018 and the gathering in HCM City in 2014 to protest China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the South China Sea.

He was summoned by local police to the communal police station many times for his social activities, his wife noted.

Hang said she is very upset of her husband’s suicide and she couldn’s explain his act. She suggested that he committed the act under great pressure from police during the long interrogation from the evening of August 1 to the noon of next day.