Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for November 26-December 2, 2018: Rights Activist Huynh Thuc Vy Sentenced to 33 Months in Prison, Yet to Have to Be Jailed

 

Defend the Defenders | December 2, 2018

 

On November 30, in a trial which lasted few hours, the People’s Court of Buon Ho town convicted local human rights defender Huynh Thuc Vy on allegation of “Affronting the national flag or national emblem” under Article 276 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code, sentencing her to 33 months in prison.

However, the court said she will not have to serve her sentence right now but after ten months to wait for her daughter to become three years old. The court also placed her under house arrest and imposed her under international travel ban.

After the trial, Vy, the founder of the unregistered organization Vietnam Women for Human Rights, said she will not appeal the court’s decision because she does not believe in Vietnam’s court system so there is no hope for sentence reduction nor the charge being dropped.

One day prior to the court, Amnesty International issued a statement calling on Vietnam’s authoritarian regime to drop all charges against her. Ten days earlier, Human Rights Watch also condemned Vietnam’s plan to try her, saying the act aims to silence Vy and other human rights advocates.

The families of imprisoned religious activists Bui Van Trung and Nguyen Hoang Nam said they were beaten and transferred further away from their home province of An Giang after they refused to work as well as make false confessions. Mr. Trung was handcuffed while being transferred from Phuoc Hoa Prison camp in Tien Giang province to An Phuoc Prison Camp in Binh Duong province while Mr. Nam, whose body was covered with his blood, was taken from Tien Giang to Xuan Loc Prison camp in Dong Nai province. He was likely beaten by prison guards before being transferred.

Meanwhile, health of subversion-convicted activist Tran Thi Xuan is deteriorating while serving her 9-year imprisonment in Prison camp No. 5 in the central province of Thanh Hoa. She is suffering from heart and kidney diseases and her illness becomes more and more serious due to poor quality of the prison food and other inhumane treatments in prison.

On November 27, online activist Nguyen Huu Quoc Duy completed his three-year imprisonment. He was arrested three years ago and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code for his political expression.

===== November 26 =====

Imprisoned Religious Activists Bui Van Trung, Nguyen Hoang Nam Beaten, Transferred Further Away after Protesting Forced Labor 

Defend the Defenders: Bui Van Trung and Nguyen Hoang Nam, who were convicted and imprisoned due to their religious activities as Hoa Hao Buddhist followers, have been treated inhumanely and transferred further away from their native province of An Giang.

According to their relatives, Mr. Trung was handcuffed while being transferred from Phuoc Hoa Prison camp in Tien Giang province to An Phuoc Prison Camp in Binh Duong province on November 14.

On the same day, Mr. Nam, whose body was covered with his blood, was taken from Tien Giang to Xuan Loc Prison camp in Dong Nai province. He was likely beaten by prison guards before being transferred.

Nam is still suffering from injuries in his eyes and head due to police’s torture months ago when he protested handcuffing Mr. Trung during his transfer from Bang Lang temporary detention facility in An Giang province to Phuoc Hoa Prison camp. At that time, two policemen reportedly used electric shock prodsto attack him.

The transfers of the two activists and the inhumane treatment against them are in a reprisal of Phuoc Hoa Prison camp’s authorities for their objection to forced labor imposed by the prison and their refusal to make false confession, said their families.

Nam and Trung were arrested on June 26, 2017 together with Trung’s wife Le Thi Hen, son Bui Van Tham and daughter Bui Thi Bich Tuyen, as well as Le Thi Hong Hanh on the day of memorizing Trung’s mother. As they are followers of independent Hoa Hoa Buddhist sect, authorities in An Giang did not want them to gather in Trung’s house but they rejected and protested so police came to disperse them, arresting people and accusing them of “causing public disorders” and “rejecting on-duty state officials.”

In their trial on February 9 this year, Trung and his son were sentenced to six years in prison, Nam- four years, Hanh and Tuyen to three years each, Mrs. Hen was given two years of probation. The People’s Court of An Giang rejected their appeals on the appeal hearing in late May and upheld their sentences.

All of them were listed as prisoners of conscience by Now!Campaign, a coalition of 14 domestic and international civil organizations working for release of all prisoners of conscience in Vietnam.

——————–

Prisoner of Conscience Tran Thi Xuan’s Health Worsens Critically

Defend the Defenders: Health of prisoner of conscience Tran Thi Xuan has worsened critically while she is serving her 9-year sentence in the Prison camp No. 5 in the central province of Thanh Hoa.

According to her brother who visited her in the prison on November 18, Ms. Xuan is suffering from a heat disease and high blood pressure. She told him that she fell unconscious many times.

In addition, her kidney failure has become more severe due to inhumane living conditions in the prison.

Her brother said she looks very weak and beriberi (a lack of vitamin B1/thiamin) due to poor quality of the food provided by the prison.

Ms. Xuan is a Catholic follower in Cua Sot parrish, Loc Ha district, Ha Tinh province. She was active in her Catholic community, raising money for charitable causes. She also spoke out against pollution in the wake of the 2016 Formosa environmental disaster and participated in protests in Loc Ha districts to demand compensation for the fishermen for the pollution caused by the Formosa steel plant’s toxic spill.

She was arrested on October 17, 2017 and charged with subversion. On April 12 this year, she was conviced and sentenced to nine years in prison and five years of probation in a court unknown for the public and her family, and she had no lawyers to defend for her.

Ms. Xuan is one of nine key members of the unregistered group Brotherhood for Democracy being arrested and sentenced in 2017-2018.

===== November 27 =====

Vietnamese Online Activist Released After Serving Three-year Sentence

Defend the Defenders:On November 27, online activist Nguyen Huu Quoc Duy was released from prison and returned to his home in the central province of Khanh Hoa after serving a three-year sentence for “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.

Mr. Duy, 33, was arrested in 2015 along with his cousin Nguyen Huu Thien An on allegation of using his Facebook page to incite others to oppose the government.

The duo was tried by a court closed to the public and their relatives were not allowed to attend. Police blocked all access to the courthouse during the trial.

Duy was listed as prisoner of conscience by many international and domestic human rights organizations.

===== November 30 =====

Rights Activist Huynh Thuc Vy Sentenced to 33 Months in Prison on Charge of “Disrespecting National Flag”

Defend the Defenders: On November 30, the People’s Court of Buon Ho town in Vietnam’s Central Highlands province of Dak Lak convicted local human rights defender and political blogger Huynh Thuc Vy on charge of “Affronting the national flag or national emblem” under Article 276 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.

The court sentenced her to two years and nine months in prison, however, she will serve her sentence once her daughter becomes three years old. Her child is now around 26 months.

The court also ruled that she will have to stay under house arrest and cannot leave her area.

Authorities in Dak Lak deployed large number of police and militia to block all roads leading to the court areas to prevent local activists from gathering near the area to support her. A number of activists were summoned to local police stations.

Few days before the trial, Vy announced that she is pregnant in the 8th week for the second child. If so, she will not be able to serve her sentence until the second child becomes three years old.

The incident started in September last year, on the occasion of the Vietnamese Independence Day (September 2) as Vy posted a picture of her with the Vietnamese national flag which was tained with paint on her Facebook account. Someone said she intentionally defamed the flag that she has never recognized.

On August 9 this year, police in Dak Lakdetained herafter she denied police’s request to go to a local police station for interrogation about the incident occured last year.She was released in late evening of the same day.

Police also searched her house and confiscated her laptop, Ipad, books and other items. They summoned her on October 16 and returned some of these items.

Later, police announced to charge her with “disrespecting the national flag” and placed her under house arrest. They also issued a decision banning her from travel abroad.

Vy, 33, is the oldest child of former political prisoner Huynh Ngoc Tuan, who spent ten years in prison in 1992-2002 for sending his political book abroad.

She has posted a number of articles for human rights and multi-party democracy, including a book tittled “Nhận định Sự thật Tự do và Nhân quyền” (A view on Truth, Freedom and Human Rights). She also advocates for rights of ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands, often visiting families of prisoners of conscience in the region.

She is among founders of the unsanctioned organization Vietnam Women for Human Rights, and was its president before getting maternal leave.

She is banned from foreign trip as police confiscated her passport when she was on her way to attend a workshop on cyber security organized by Reporters Without Formers in Bangkok in June 2015.

She was interrogated many times in the past. In 2012, she was arrested by the police, put in a car that went for a 1,000kms. She was then interrogated continuously for 12 hours, before being dropped at a fuel station at midnight.

In May, the British Broad Corporation (BBC) listed Vy as one of five female activists who are risking their lives to protect others’ rights. Other activists include Wang Yu from China, Maria Chin Abdullah from Malaysia, Anchana Heemina from Thailand and Phyoe Phyoe Aung from Myanmar.

Since 2013, Mr. Tuan’s family has been suppressed by police. He was brutally assailed by plainclothes agents several times and suffered a number of severe injuries.

The family of his youngest child, Huynh Trong Hieu, was forced to flee to Thailand to seek for political asylum.

Under police’s pressure, Vy and her husband Duy were forced to leave Ho Chi Minh City to Buon Ho several years ago where they are running coffee business.

The conviction against Vy aims to silence her as the charge against her is the first kind of persecution against local dissident.

One day ahead of the trial, the London-based human rights organization Amnesty International issued a statement  calling Vietnam to drop all charge against her.

“This ludicrous charge must be dropped as it is aimed solely at silencing a dedicated, peaceful human rights activist. This is a politically motivated prosecution, brought by the authorities in response to Huynh Thuc Vy’s tireless work to expose human rights violations in Viet Nam and hold the powerful to account,” said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

“For the authorities to use the charge of ‘insulting the national flag’ to curb peaceful criticism underlines the worsening crackdown on the right to freedom of expression in Vietnam. The real insult here is the lack of respect the authorities are showing for human rights and international law and standards.”

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