Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for February 24- March 1, 2020: Trial against Abducted Journalist Truong Duy Nhat Canceled
Defend the Defenders | March 1, 2020
The People’s Court of Hanoi has canceled the first-instance hearing against former prisoner of conscience Truong Duy Nhat, scheduled on February 28 and set the new date of March 9. Mr. Nhat, who was kidnapped in Bangkok in late January 2019 after registering for political asylum to the UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR)’s Office in Thailand, was taken back to Vietnam and charged with of “abusing his position” in a case involving the sale of public land at an eventual loss to the state of over VND$13 billion ($559,000).
The cancelation was made after Nhat’s lawyer Dang Dinh Manh refused to be at the trial as he was informed about the hearing just one week in advance and he had not enough time for his client’s defense preparation. Another attorney, Ngo Anh Tuan was not informed about the trial.
Vietnam’s communist regime has reportedly detained a number of citizens in relation to the US-based “exile government” founded by Vietnamese American Dao Minh Quan which calls for violent struggle against the Vietnamese government. Seven residents in Binh Phuoc province were reportedly detained while police in Dong Nai province said they have arrested Tran Thi Anh Hoa and charged her with subversion.
On February 25, a number of Vietnamese and international non-government organizations sent a joint letter to Ambassador Elizabeth Tichy-Fisslberger, president of the UN Human Rights Council, to ask the agency to launch an investigation on the brutal attack in Dong Tam commune on the early morning of January 9, 2020. The petitioners have also requested the council to ask Vietnam to stop persecution against other people in Dong Tam and release 27 detainees who are charged with “murder” and “objecting on-duty state officials.”
Member of Parliament Chris Hayes has called Australia’s Parliament to approve the Appropriation Bill No. 2 similar to the US’s Magnitsky to punish state officials from Vietnam who have committed human rights violations. In his speech in the parliament, Hayes said Vietnam’s communist regime continues to persecute local activists.
===== 24/2 =====
More Citizens Arrested in Relation with Dao Minh Quan’s Exile Group
Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s communist regime has reportedly detained a number of citizens in relation to the US-based “exile government” founded by Vietnamese American Dao Minh Quan which calls for violent struggling against the Vietnamese government.
According to unverified information, authorities in Vietnam’s southern province of Binh Phuoc detained seven residents in Phuoc Tin commune, Phuoc Long town on February 18. Among the detainees are Le Van Lac, 60 years old, his 48-year-old wife Nguyen Thi Kim Phuong and his younger brother Le Van Sang. Police reportedly confiscated their car and a huge volume of cash.
It is unclear what the charges they are facing. The state-controlled media has not covered the arrests.
Meanwhile, police in the southern province of Dong Nai said it have arrested local resident Tran Thi Anh Hoa, 57, for persuing other residents to support Dao Minh Quan’s group. She is likely charged with subversion.
Vietnam’s communist regime considers Dao Minh Quan’s group as a terrorist organization. So far, it has imprisoned or detained 27 residents in relation to the group. Many of them were convicted of terrorism and sentenced up to 16 years in jail.
===== February 25 =====
Many NGOs Urge UN Human Rights Council to Investigate Dong Tam Brutal Attack
Defend the Defenders: On February 25, a number of Vietnamese and international non-government organizations sent a joint letter to Ambassador Elizabeth Tichy-Fisslberger, president of the UN Human Rights Council, to ask the agency to launch an investigation on the brutal attack in Dong Tam commune on the early morning of January 9, 2020.
The letter, signed by Reporters Without Borders, Front Line Defenders, the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam, asked the council to send its special rapporteur to Dong Tam to investigate the attack in which police killed 84-year-old Le Dinh Kinh and detained around 30 farmers who were charged with burning three police officers.
The letter is accompanied by a report containing numerous facts and pictures of the attack.
The signed parties urged the UN HRC to demand Hanoi to release all Dong Tam’s detainees and stop persecution against the residents in the commune who stand up to protect their agricultural fields.
Vietnam’s communist regime should allow independent journalists to go to Dong Tam, the letter said.
===== February 26 =====
Legislator Chris Hayes Calls on Australian Parliament to Punish Vietnamese State Officials for Human Rights Violations
Defend the Defenders: Member of Parliament Chris Hayes has called Australia’s Parliament to approve the Appropriation Bill No. 2 similar to the US’s Magnitsky to punish state officials from Vietnam who have committed human rights violations.
In his speech in the Australian parliament, Mr. Hayes said Vietnam is an authoritarian regime that persecutes local dissidents to maintain its political monopoly.
He mentioned two cases, one about the conviction of Australian citizen Chau Van Kham on the charge of terrorism and the brutal police attack in Dong Tam on January 9.
Australia has important roles in the Asia-Pacific region and it should use its soft power to ask regional countries to respect human rights and social fairness, especially these countries Australia has defense assistance and aid, he said.
Australia should apply its sanctions similar to the US’s Magnitsky Act to improve the human rights situation worldwide, he noted.
===== February 28 =====
Trial against Former Prisoner of Conscience Truong Duy Nhat Postponed on March 9
Defend the Defenders: On February 28, the People’s Court of Hanoi decided to postpone the first-instance hearing against former prisoner of conscience Truong Duy Nhat and set the new date for it on March 9.
The decision was made after Mr. Nhat’s lawyers Dang Dinh Manh refused to be in the trial on February 28 in which Nhat is tried for the allegation of “abusing his position” in a case involving the sale of public land at an eventual loss to the state of over VND$13 billion ($559,000).
One week earlier, attorney Manh filed a request to postpone the trial, saying it is not the right time for the hearing amid increasing infection of the deadly Coronavirus in Vietnam. He also stated that he and his colleagues need more time for Nhat’s defense preparation.
Manh, who has involved in a number of political cases, received the court notice one week prior to the scheduled trial while his colleague Ngo Anh Tuan has not been informed about the hearing although Tuan had also requested approval to participate in the trial as one of Nhat’s lawyers.
Mr. Nhat, who was imprisoned two years in 2013-2014 after being convicted of “abusing democratic freedom” for his posts critical to Vietnam’s communist regime on his blog, was reportedly kidnapped by Thai police in Bangkok in late January 2019 and later handed over to Vietnam’s police. He was taken to Hanoi on January 28 and has been in police custody since that time. He was investigated for illegally acquiring property but as investigators failed to find sufficient evidence for the charge and the communist regime changed the allegation for him.
Nhat, who confirmed being kidnapped by the Thai police one day after registering for political asylum to the UN High Commissioner on Refugee (UNHCR)’s Office in Bangkok with his lawyer, is facing imprisonment of between 10 years and 15 years if is convicted.
The new charge was filed after investigators failed to find sufficient evidence to convict him on an earlier charge of illegally acquiring property, his wife and a family friend told RFA in an earlier report.
Nhat is among 12 Vietnamese being imprisoned for their writing, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists while some unofficial sources said he was kidnapped and taken to Vietnam as he holds secret information for many senior officials of the regime who do not want this information to become public.
Shortly after his abduction in Bangkok more than one year ago, Amnesty International issued a public statement calling on authorities in Thailand and Vietnam conduct an investigation about his disappearance in Bangkok and later being in police custody in Hanoi. Bangkok and Hanoi remained silent.
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