Vietnam Still Holds Former Prisoner of Conscience Doan Van Dien in Custody Since December 24, No Charges Issued

Labor activist Doan Huy Chuong and his father Doan Van Dien. Both are former prisoners of conscience serving total 13 years in jail between 2007 and 2017.

By Defend the Defenders, January 14, 2018

Police in Vietnam’s southern province of Dong Nai are still holding former prisoner of conscience Protestant pastor Doan Van Dien for questioning since his detention on December 24, 2017, his family told Defend the Defenders.

So far, the local authorities have not issued charges for him nor arrest warrant for the activist whose works aim to promote rights of workers and farmers, said his son Doan Huy Chuong, who is also a former prisoner of conscience released in February 2017 after spending total 8.5 years in jail for his efforts to protect workers’ rights.

On December 24 last year, Dong Nai police arrested Mr. Dien in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong where he temporarily stays. The detainee is a member of the Inter-faith Council, an unregistered coalition working for religious freedom in the Southeast Asian nation.

Police verbally informed the family about the detention of Mr. Dien but did not unveil the reason for the arrest. They told his daughter-in-law that he was “invited to the police station to work on some issues” without giving more details.

Currently, Mr. Dien is held in the B5 Temporary Detention Facility under management of Dong Nai police.

Pastor Dien and his son established the unregistered Solidarity Association of Workers and Farmers in 2006. One year later, they were arrested and charged with “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 258 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code. Later, the father was sentenced to 4.5 years while the son was given 18 months in prison.

Mr. Chuong said the detention of his father aims to force him to show up so the police can arrest him. Along with holding the father, Dong Nai police have sent officers to different places to seek for the son, Chuong said.

The prolonged detention of his father without charge and arrest warrant is violation of the country’s Criminal Procedure Law, which allows police hold suspects for maximum nine days without charge(s).

After serving the 18-month imprisonment, in 2009, Chuong and Do Thi Minh Hanh and Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung formed the Viet Labor Movement aiming to help workers demand for higher salary and better working conditions.

In 2010, the trio was arrested on allegation of “Disrupting security” under Article 89 of the Penal Code 1999. Chuong and Hanh were sentenced to seven years in prison each while Hung was given nine years in jail. Chuong was released in February last year while Hung is still in prison and Hanh was released in 2014 after four years in prison thanks to international pressure.

Since being released last year, Chuong has continued to work on the capacity of vice president of the Viet Labor Movement to assist workers. He has been targeted by security forces as Vietnam’s government prioritizes foreign investment and ignores workers’ rights.

Mr. Dien is the latest victim of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on local political dissidents, human rights defenders, social activists and online bloggers. In 2017, Vietnam arrested at least 45 activists on allegation of anti-state activities in the national security provisions of the Penal Code and sentenced 19 of them to between three and 16 years.

Vietnam is holding around 180 prisoners of conscience, according to Defend the Defenders’ counting.