Subversion-charged Activist Luu Van Vinh Faces Heavy Sentence

Mr. Luu Van Vinh (left) and Mr. Nguyen Van Duc Do

Defend the Defenders, December 15, 17

Human rights defender and pro-democracy activist Luu Van Vinh will face heavy sentence if he is convicted on allegation of subversion in a court in near future, according to his lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng.

Lawyer Mieng said his client will be tried for Clause 1 of Article 79 of Vietnam’s 1999 Penal Code in coming months after the People’s Procuracy in Ho Chi Minh City passed the case to the city’s People’s Court and advised the court to prosecute him on allegation of “Carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration.”

The clause states that “Organizers, instigators and active participants or those who cause serious consequences shall be sentenced to between twelve and twenty years of imprisonment, life imprisonment or capital punishment.”

Mr. Vinh, 50, was detained on November 6, 2016 and had been held incommunicado for over a year until last month when he was allowed to meet with his wife and two kids for 15 minutes.

Vinh, is a handyman, electrician and plumber from the northern province of Hai Duong who moved to HCM City several years ago. His family, including three children aged between six and 19-year-old, joined him in 2015.

Vinh participated in many peaceful demonstrations in Hanoi and HCM City to protest China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea) and the Taiwanese Formosa’s discharge of huge amount of toxic industrial waste into sea waters in the central province of Ha Tinh which caused massive death of fisheries in four central coastal provinces last year.

He had been detained and beaten many times, including the three-day arrest in May 2016 after he took part in a peaceful demonstration on environmental issue.

Vinh was beaten and detained in his private residence in the city during the lunch on November 6 while his friend Nguyen Van Duc Do was arrested after visiting Vinh’s house earlier on the same day. Police also detained between nearly ten others related in the same case on the same day but released them after torturing and interrogating them for several days, the victims said after being released.

The arrests were said to be linked to the Coalition for Self-determined Vietnamese People. Mr. Vinh founded the coalition in mid-July last year and became the president of the organization which aims to end the communists’ political monopoly. According to the organization’s founding statement, all major issues of the country should be decided by the people via referendums.

However, Vinh was reported to have left the coalition 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 Do.

In November last year, the UN Human Rights Office for Southeast Asia called on Vietnam to release three rights advocates who were detained by the government and to investigate allegations that the trio were tortured while in custody. The UN agency said prominent blogger Ho Van Hai and two political activists pushing for greater freedoms Vietnam, Vinh and Do, should be granted unconditional release.

The arrests of Vinh and other activists are part of Vietnam’s intensifying crackdown against local dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders amid increasing public awareness about the country’s socio-economic problems, including systemic corruption and widespread environmental pollution.

So far this year, Vietnam has arrested and tried or expelled 25 activists in the ongoing hardest campaign against government critics.

According to Amnesty International, Vietnam is holding around 90 prisoners of conscience while the BPSOS and 14 other international and domestic human rights organizations in their Now! Campaign placed the number of prisoners of conscience as high as 165 prisoners.

Hanoi always denies imprisoning any prisoner of conscience but only law violators.