Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for September 10-16, 2018: BFD’s Spokesman Nguyen Trung Truc Sentenced to 12 Years in Prison

Defend the Defenders| September 16, 2018

 

On September 12, the People’s Court of Quang Binh province convicted Spokesman Nguyen Trung Truc of the banned group Brotherhood for Democracy (BFD) on allegation of subversion under Article 79 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.

During the trial lasted less than three hours, the judge sentenced the 44-year-old environmentalist and human rights defender to 12 years in prison and five years of probation.

One day ahead of the trial, Human Rights Watch issued a press release calling on Vietnam to drop all charges against Mr. Truc and release him immediately.

After the trial, the US Embassy in Vietnam released a statement saying it is “deeply concerned that a Vietnamese court has convicted Nguyen Trung Truc to 12 years in prison and 5 years’ probation under vague charges of “attempting to overthrow the people’s administration.”

Two days later, the Higher People’s Court in Hanoi rejected the appeal of former BFD’s President Nguyen Van Tuc, who was sentenced to 13 years in prison and five years of probation by the People’s Court of Thai Binh province in the first-instance hearing on April 12.

Jailed entrepreneur Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, one of the leading dissidents in Vietnam, has ended his hunger strike which started in mid-August. His decision to resume eating is a relief for thousands of Vietnamese activists and the foreign community who are concerned about his health.

Imprisoned environmentalist and human rights advocate Hoang Duc Binh who is serving his 14-year sentence in An Diem prison camp, has unveiled that he was tortured by Nghe An police on the day of arrest. They beat him brutally and now he is still suffering from the injuries caused by the torture, including worsening hearing capacity.

On September 9, plainclothes agents in Di Linh district, Lam Dong attacked former prisoner of conscience Truong Van Kim. They broke one of his arm and caused other injuries. Police were reported to cause other troubles for him and his family during his medical treatment.

Many activists members of the unregistered group Hiến Pháp (Constitution) are still considered missing as Ho Chi Minh City’s police denied to inform their families about their arrests and detentions and possible charges. Mr. Ngo Van Dung was reportedly detained on September 4 while Mr. Do The Hoa was said to be caught on September 1 and Ms. Doan Thi Hong is believed to be arrested by police on September 2. They were detained when security forces in HCM City were put on high alert in view of calls for protests against the government for its failure to address systemic corruption and pollution, its weak response to China’s infringement upon Vietnam’s sovereignty in the South China Sea, and its growing human rights violations.It is likely that thecity’s police arrested them onsuspicion that they planned to organize demonstrations on the occasion of the Independent Day (September 2).

Authoritiesin DongThap have announced that they charged Facebooker Huynh Truong Ca with “anti-government propaganda” under Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code nearly two weeks after detaining him.

Meanwhile, according to an unofficial source, authorities in HCM City will bring Luu Van Vinh and his friends to a court to try them on allegation of subversion on October 5. Vinh and three friends named Nguyen Van Duc Do, Tu Cong Nghia and Phan Van Trung were arrested in late 2016. They were kept incommunicado for one year after being arrested.

===== September 9 =====

Former Prisoner of Conscience Truong Van Kim Attacked by Under-covered Policemen, Second Assault since June 

Defend the Defenders: At around 4 PMof September 9, a group of three plainclothes agents and one thug attacked former prisoner of conscience Truong Van Kim when he went home from his coffee plantation in Di Linh district, Lam Dong province.

The victim said that the thug stopped him and later two plainclothes agents namely Hoa and Vu from the Di Linh district’s Police Division came to assault him with wooden batons.

The attackers broke one of his arm and caused many injuries on his body before leaving, the victims said.

After the assault, he was taken to a hospital for urgent treatment, activists said.

This is the second attack of plainclothes agents against Mr. Kim within the past few months.

On June 22, plainclothes agents also attacked him when he went to his coffee field. The attackders riding on their motorbikes tried to kick his vehicle and knock down him on street but he successfully escaped the attack so they ran away.

In April 2017, he was also assaulted by under-covered policemen.

Mr. Kim, nearly 70,was a land petitioner. He and three other land petitioners namely Duong Au, Phung Quang Tuyen and Truong Thi Tam established the so-called Party for People. In late August 2010, they went to Cambodia to visit their friends and when returned, they were arrested and charged with “Fleeing abroad or defecting to stay overseas with a view to opposing the people’s administration” under Article 91of the 1999 Penal Code.

Later, Kim and Tam were sentenced to three years in prison and three years under house arrest each while Au was given five years in prison and three years under house arrest and Quyen was sentenced to four year in prison.

After being released in 2012, Mr. Kim has been a subject of the local police’s harassment.

===== September 11 =====

Blogger Xuan Hong Still in Detention, Family Not Informed about Her Situation

Defend the Defenders: Police in Ho Chi Minh City are still holding Ms. Doan Thi Hong who has Facebook account Xuan Hong but have not informed her family where she is held and what charge she is facing.

Defend the Defenders has learned that Ms. Hong, the mother of a 30-month girl, was arrested on September 1 and held by police from District 12.

On September 3, police took her to her apartment in District 2 and conducted searching. She was reportedly at good health.

On September 4, her family from the central province of Binh Thuan learned about her detention from her friends. So far, the family has not received any notice from the local government about her situation.

Her family went to the police stations of Dong Hung Thuan and Tan Chanh Hiep wards to seek for her. They replied that they are not aware of her case while her friends said she was arrested by police from the two locations.

Her family has learned that on September 10, police took her back to her apartment for second time for searching. When her older sister namely Khanh came, the police left already. Ms. Khanh said the landlord and the local authorities refused to inform her what happends with her sister.

People in the area said Ms. Hong acted strange, not like the first house searching one week earlier. Khanh expressed her concerns that her sister may be tortured mentally and physically or injected with toxic chemical.

Meanwhile, blogger Do The Hoa (with Facebook account Bang Linh), who was reportedly arrested on September 1, has not been released and his family has not been informed about his situation.

In late August and early September, authorities in HCM City reportedly arrested dozens of activists and Facebookers in a bid to prevent mass demonstration amid online calls for uprising against the communist government which is considered failing to address many important issues of the nation.

Among detainees are independent journalist Ngo Van Dung, Ms. Doan Thi Hong (with Facebook nickname Xuan Hong), Mr. Pham Minh Tri (with Facebook nickname Pham Vu Phong), Do The Hoa (with Facebook account Bang Linh), Ngo Hoang Chuc (with Facebook account Hoàng Chức) from An Giang, Le Vinh Thach, Ms. Kim Hoan, Tran Thanh Phuong and Nguyen Chi Vung.

State media has reported that authorities have arrested four Facebookers namely Nguyen Ngoc Anh from Ben Tre, Huynh Truong Ca from Dong Thap, and Doan Khanh Vinh and Bui Manh Dong from Can Tho City. The first was 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 while the allegations for the three other remain unclear.

So far this year, Vietnam has imprisoned 26 activists with a combined  jail term of 187 years and nine months, and 51 years of probation. The communist government has also detained 14 activists on allegations in the national security provisions of the Penal Code.

It has also imprisoned around 50 people participating in the mass demonstration in mid June, with jail sentences of between eight and 42 months.

——————–

Situation of Blogger Ngo Van Dung Still Unknown for His Family after Nine Days of Detention

Defend the Defenders: Citizen journalist Ngo Van Dung from Vietnam’s Central Highlands province of Dak Lak is still missing nine days after his detention as police have denied to inform his family about his situation.

Mr. Dung, 49, was reportedly detained by police in Ho Chi Minh City on September 4 when he had conducted a live stream on streets in District 1.

Informed by his friends about his detention, his family tried to contact him by his cell phone number but received only one message from his number afternoon of the same day saying he was arrested by police from Ben Nghe ward, District 1.

Dung’s family went to the HCM City’s Police Department and the District 1’s Police Division to ask about him, however, the two agencies denied of holding him. Police from Ben Nghe ward said he was transferred to Tao Dan Park temporary detention facility in Ben Thanh ward, however, police in Ben Thanh ward said they do not keep any detainee but send to their localities.

Some friends told his wife Nga that he was deported to their home province, however, police from Dak Lak denied the information.

On September 11, an officer from the Ben Thanh ward’s police station told his wife that her husband is likely transferred to the temporary detention under the authority of the city’s Police Department. She went to the department but received negative answer.

Ms. Nga and their family are very concerned about Mr. Dung, given many cases in which detainees were tortured to death in police stations nationwide in the last few years.

This is the second detention of Mr. Dung this year. In mid-March, he was detained together with fellow Nguyen Uyen Thuy when they were covering news on the demonstration of sacked school teachers inDak Lak. Police took the two activists into custody for interrogation for hours and released them on late afternoon of the same day. However, they confiscated their cell phones the activists used for filming the demonstration, and later imposed them administrative fine of VND2 million ($90) for causing public disorders.

Ngo Van Dung and Nguyen Uyen Thuy are members of the Vietnam Reviving Campaign which works for free press in the communist nation.

Last year, Vietnam arrested three members of the campaign namely Vu Quang Thuan, Nguyen Van Dien and Tran Hoang Phuc and in late January this year convicted them on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code. Thuan was sentenced to eight years, Dien to six years and six months and Tran Hoang Phuc to six years in prison and a total of 13 years under probation afterward. Human Rights Watch has called on Vietnam to release the trio immediately and unconditionally, saying they were convicted just for exercising their right to freedom of expression enshrined in the country’s 2013 Constitution.

===== September 12 =====

Spokesman of Brotherhood for Democracy Convicted on Subversion, Sentenced to 12 Years in Prison

Defend the Defenders: On September 12, the People’s Court of Vietnam’s central province of Quang Binh convictedNguyen Trung Truc, the spokesman of the banned group Brotherhood for Democracy (BFD) on allegation of subversion.

After the 3-hour trial, the court found Mr. Truc guilty of “carrying out activities aiming to overthrow the government” under Article 79 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code, giving him 12 years in prison and five years of probation afterward.

According to his lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng, only his son Nguyen Minh Tam attended the trial but any representatives of foreign diplomatic missions in the Southeast Asian nation.

One day ahead of Mr. Truc’s trial, Human Rights Watch issued a press release calling the Vietnamese authorities to drop all charges against him and release him immediately.

“Nguyen Trung Truc is yet another victim of the Vietnamese government’s campaign against people who advocate human rights and democracy,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The country is now becoming a giant prison for anyone who speaks up against the government or acts to advance basic rights.”

Few hours after the trial, the US Embassy in Vietnam released a statement saying it is “deeply concerned that a Vietnamese court has convicted Nguyen Trung Truc to 12 years in prison and 5 years’ probation under vague charges of “attempting to overthrow the people’s administration.”

The trend of increased arrests and harsh sentences for peaceful activists in Vietnam is troubling, said the Embassy in its statement.  The US calls on Vietnam to release all prisoners of conscience immediately and to allow all individuals in Vietnam to express their views freely and assemble peacefully without fear of retribution, and urges the Vietnamese government to ensure its actions and laws, including the Penal Code, are consistent with the human rights provisions of Vietnam’s constitution and its international obligations and commitments.

Mr. Truc, 44, was arrested on August 4, 2017 and charged with subversion. He had been kept incommunicado since being detained until lastmonth when he was permitted to meet with his lawyer to prepare for his defense.

During the past 12 months, his family has been permitted only to send him some additional food. Like in other political cases, his lawyer was not been allowed to attend interrogationsduring the pre-trial detention.

Truc has been active in promoting human rights and multi-party democracy in Vietnam, as well as assisting fishermen who have been affected by the environmental disaster in the central coastal region as a result of the discharge of a huge amount of toxic industrial waste by the Taiwanese Formosa steel plant located in the central province of Ha Tinh in May 2016.

He hadbeen harassed by Vietnam’s security forces, including being kidnapped and beaten in 2016 when plainclothes agents abducted him and seven others, bringing them to remote areas in Ha Tinh province where they robbed and tortured them before leaving them in a forest area.

Truc is the 8th member of the Brotherhood for Democracy to be arrested and charged with serious crimes under national security provisions in the Penal Code.Others include prominent human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, Protestant pastor Nguyen Trung Ton, engineer Pham Van Troi, veteran journalist and labor activist Truong Minh Duc, English teacher Le Thu Ha, anti-corruption campaigner Nguyen Van Tuc, humanitarian aid Tran Thi Xuan. All of them were convicted on allegation of subversion and sentenced to between seven and 15 years in prison in April-May.In addition, Vietnam also arrested former teacher and prisoner of conscience Vu Van Hung, who is also a member of the group, and sentenced him to one year in prison in a politically trumped-up case.

The Brotherhood for Democracy is one of the main targets of the ongoing crackdown of the Vietnamese government on local dissent.

Expressingno tolerance withgovernment’s critics, the Vietnamese communist government has convicted 26 activists and given a combined 199 years and nine months in prison and 56 years of probation. The highest sentence of 20 years in prison and five years of probation was given to human rights advocate and democracy activist Le Dinh Luong in the trial against him last month.

In addition, Vietnam has imprisoned 36 protestors who participated in the mass demonstration in mid-June, with imprisonment of between eight months and 42 months. Seven others were given probation.

Since the beginning of 2018, Vietnam has arrested 13 activists on allegation of “Making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 117 or “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the 2015 Penal Code.

===== September 13 =====

Prisoner of Conscience Hoang Duc Binh Still Suffers from Police Torture on Day of Arrest

Defend the Defenders: Jailed nvironmentalist and union activist Hoang Duc Binh is still suffering from the injuries caused by police torture on the day he was arrest 16 months ago, Defend the Defenders has learned from his brother.

Mr. Hoang Nguyen, an younger brother of the imprisoned activist unveiled the  information on September 13 after his visit this week to Hoang Duc Binh who is serving his 14-year imprisonment in An Diem prison camp in the central province of Quang Nam.

During the short meeting, Mr. Binh told his brother that on May 15, 2017, after detaining Binh, police officers brutally beat him at his head and other parts of his body.

Due to the police’s torture, Binh’s hearing capacity worsened drastically. Binh still has pain in his ears after 16 months, he told his brother.

Binh asked Nguyen to supply him with medical alcohol for ear cleaning.

Binh couldn’t tell his brother more details of the torture as they talked under close monitoring of police officers.

Police’s torture is not rare in Vietnam although the country’s parliament ratified the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) in November 2014.

Last month, during the trial of democracy activist Le Dinh Luong, jailed activists Nguyen Viet Dung and Nguyen Van Hoa said that they were tortured for coerced confession during interrogations related to the defendant of the hearing. In June-August, police in Ho Chi Minh City also tortured dissident singer Nguyen Huu Tin twice, and human rights defenders Nguyen Dang Cao Dai and Ngo Thanh Tu in police station.

Mr. Binh, vice president of the unsanctioned organization Viet Labor Movement, was arrested on May 15 last year and 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 sentenced him to 14 years in prison in the first-instance hearing and the People’s Court of Nghe An province upheld the sentence in the appeal hearing on April 24.

He was convicted for his defenseofworkers’ rights, and assisting Formosa-affected fishermen in seeking adequate compensation.

Along with being tortured, Binh had been kept incommunicado formonths until few weeks prior to the trial when he was permitted to meet with his lawyer to prepare for his defense. His family was allowed to meet him for the first time in late April, after the appeal.

Many foreign democratic governments and international human rights organizations have called on Vietnam’s government to drop all charges against him and release him immediately.

===== September 14 =====

Vietnam Court Rejects Appeal of Activist Nguyen Van Tuc, Sending Him Back to Prison

Defend the Defenders: The Higher People’s Court in Hanoi hasrejected the appeal of former President of the unsanctioned group Brotherhood for Democracy Nguyen Van Tuc, upholding the sentence given by a lower court in April, Defend the Defender has learned.

According to the court’s decision made on his appeal hearing in Thai Binh province in the moring on September 13, Mr. Tuc has to spend the next 12 years in prison.

Mr. Tuc, 54, whowas jailed four years in 2008-2012 on conviction of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code, was arrested on September 1, 2017on allegation of “carrying out activities aiming to overthrow the government” under Article 79 of the law. On April 10 this year, the People’s Court of Thai Binh province found him guilty and sentenced him to 13 years in prison and five years of probation.

One day prior to the appeal hearing, the New York-based organization Human Rights Watch issued a statementcalling the Vietnamese government to drop all charges against Mr. Tuc and release him immediately.

It is unclear whether he can survive in prison given the poor living conditions in Vietnam’s prisons and inhumane treatments of prisons’ guards, especially for prisoners of conscience.

According to his daughter who was in the courtroomin the trial, Mr. Tuc couldn’t stand up during trial. The doctor checked his blood pressure before the trial and the doctor informed the court that it was quite high (190). The defendant also felt his heart muscles cramping up but the court still went on.

Mr. Tuc also has very bad hemorrhoids and he had a lot of rectal bleeding during the trial, the family said.

His health has not improved after the trial, according the family.In late June, his family told the Radio Free Asia (RFA) that he wassuffering deteriorating health in jail some nine months after his arrest.

“When he was arrested, his hair was much blacker and now it has turned quite white. His heart disease makes him unable to sleep and eat in the current hot weather,” his wife Bui Thi Rewas quoted by RFA as saying.

Mr. Tuc is the 9th member of Brotherhood for Democracy being imprisoned this year. Eight of them, including its founder Nguyen Van Dai, were also convicted of subversion and sentenced to prison with jail terms of between seven and 15 years, and probation of between one and five years.

The London-based Amnesty Internationalhas listed Mr. Tuc among nearly 100 prisoners of conscience in Vietnam. The right group once called on Hanoi to drop the charges against Tuc and other activists of the Brotherhood for Democracy.

Vietnam continues its political crackdown on local dissent. So far this year, the communist nation has convicted 26 activists and sentenced them to a total nearly 200 years in prison and 56 years of probation.

It has detained 14 activists, mostly on allegations in the national security provisions of the Penal Code since the beginning of this year.

In addition, Vietnam has suppressed peaceful demonstrations, detaining hundreds of them many of whom were tortured and badly treated in police’s custody. So far, 43 of them have been sentenced to between eight months and 42 months in prison.

===== September 15 =====

Vietnam Likely to Try Pro-democracy Advocate Luu Van Vinh on October 5

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s authorities will try democracy advocate Luu Van Vinh and his friends on allegation of subversion on October 5, his wife Nguyen Thi Thap has learned from a source from the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City.

So far, his family and lawyer have not received notices from the court, Mrs. Thap told Defend the Defenders.

According to the unofficial information, along with Mr. Vinh, the court will also try several of his friends named labor activist Nguyen Van Duc Do,  Buddhist monk Phan Van Trung, Nguyen Quoc Hoan and Tu Cong Nghia. They were detained in 2016-2017 and charged with “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.

Mr. Vinh, 51, who was arrested on November 6, 2016, was held incommunicado for one year, including five months in Phan Dang Luu temporary detention facility before being transferred to Chi Hoa detention facility in HCM City.

Mr. Vinh’s arrest was said to be linked to the Coalition for Self-determined Vietnamese People. He founded the coalition in mid-July last year and became the president of the organization which aims to end the communists’ political monopoly. All major issues of the country should be decided by the people via referendums, according to its founding statement. However, Vinh was reported to have left the coalition a few days before being detained.

After Vinh’s detention, Amnesty International issued a statement calling on Vietnam’s government to immediately and unconditionally release him and his friend NguyenVan Duc Do and Buddhist monk Phan Van Trung.

In May 2018, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued a statement saying the arrest and detention of Mr. Vinh are arbitrary, and urges Vietnam’s government to release him immediately and unconditionally.

For more information onMr. Vinh’s case, please visit Defend the Defenders’ archive.

===== September 16 =====

Jailed Tran Huynh Duy Thuc Ends Month-lasting Hunger Strike

Defend the Defenders: Prisoner of conscience Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, who is serving his 16-year imprisonment in Prison camp No. 6 in Vietnam’s central province of Nghe An, has ended his hunger strike which started in mid-August, Defend the Defenders has learned.

Mr. Thuc, who was convicted on allegation of subversion, decided to resume consuming food on September 16 after meeting with his two sisters and daughter who came from Ho Chi Minh City to visit him.

Their meeting was interrupted on Saturday but resumed in the morning of next day as both the family and the prison’s authorities want to convince him to stop hunger strike.

On Saturday’s afternoon, his sisters and daughter met him for few minutes instead of the prison’s standard of one hour as police interrupted their conversation. When they saw each other, the prison’s guards told them to talk only basic greetings and family’s affairs. When the sisters mentioned “outside situation” to Mr. Thuc, police officers immediately took him out of the meeting room and they were no longer allowed to continue their conversation.

Due to the police’s interruption, Mr. Thuc decided to extend his hunger strike one more day.

Many Vietnamese activists have joined a hunger strike campaign to support Mr. Thuc. They called on him to stop hunger strike when his health worsened.

Mr. Thuc, who was sentenced to 16 years in prison on allegation of subversion, started his hunger strike on August 14 in a bid to protest the prison’s bad treatment which aims to force him to make confession.

He reportedly denies proposals to live in exile after his conviction.

For more information on Mr. Thuc, please go to our website’s archive.

===============