Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for March 19-25, 2018: Hanoi to Try Prominent Human Rights Attorney Nguyen Van Dai and Five Members of BFD on Allegation of Subversion in Early April

Defend the Defenders | March 25, 2018

Vietnam’s authorities have announced that they will hold the first-instance trial of six key members of the unsanctioned Brotherhood for Democracy for allegation of subversion on April 5.

The trial wil be carried out by the People’s Court of Hanoi in early next month, more than 27 months after the arrests of prominent human rights attorney Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Ms. Le Thu Ha and eight months after the detentions of four other key members of the online group namely Pham Van Troi, Truong Minh Duc, Nguyen Trung Ton, and Nguyen Bac Truyen.

The six human right defenders and pro-democracy campaigners are facing heavy sentences. The current Vietnamese law imposes life imprisonment, even dead punishment for these who are convicted with “Carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.

Authorities in Nghe An province will try Nguyen Viet Dung, the founder and president of the unregistered Vietnam Republic Party, on March 28 on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code. Local police kidnapped the former prisoner of conscience on September 27 last year and later announced that he was arrested and charged with “anti-state activity.” He is also facing heavy sentence as many activists convicted with the same charge were sentenced to lengthy sentences in recent months.

The People’s Procuracy of Ho Chi Minh City likely refused the proposal of the local police to prosecute pro-democracy activist Luu Van Vinh, according to his wife. The court told his lawyers that it asked the local police to further investigate the case in which Mr. Vinh is accused of “Carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79.

Recently-convicted human rights activists Tran Thi Nga and Nguyen Van Oai had been transferred to Gia Trung camp in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai, one of prisons with hard conditions located in a remote area about 1,200 km from Ha Nam where Ms. Nga’s family is residyng and about 900 km from Mr. Oai’s home. Sending prisoners of conscience to the areas far from their families is one of Vietnam’s measures to punish them.

On March 20, veteran poet Bui Minh Quoc, vice president of unsanctioned Independent Journalist Association of Vietnam was blocked from taking a flight to the US where he planned to visit his son. Mr. Quoc is one of more than 100 activists under travel ban in Vietnam.

and other news

===== March 19 =====

Vietnam Transfers Political Prisoner Nguyen Van Oai to Remote Jail

RFA: Vietnamese authorities have transferred prisoner of conscience Nguyen Van Oai to a remote prison far from his wife and hometown with notifying his family, his wife told RFa’s Vietnamese Service on Monday.

“Oai is now in prison in Gia Trung of Gia Lai province,” his wife Linh Chau told RFA.

“He is with other political prisoners and they make him do hard labor,” she said by telephone.

Chau said the family did not get any notice from authorities about this transfer from a prison in Nghe An province, where he was serving five years, to Gia Trung, some five hours away.

Vietnamese authorities have been known to move political prisoners far from their homes to make it difficult for family and friends to visit them.

Oai, 36, had been sentenced in September 2017 to five years, with an additional four years to be served under house arrest, after allegedly violating the terms of his probation after serving an earlier prison term for “attempting to overthrow” Vietnam’s government under Article 79 of the country’s penal code.

Article 79 is one of a number of vague statutes that authorities often use to detain writers and bloggers who criticize the country’s communist government and its policies.

===== March 20 =====

Attack on Hmong Christians Underscores Vietnam Religious Freedom Shortcomings

RFA: An incident early this month in which 24 Hmong Christians in Vietnam’s northwestern highlands were attacked by a mob led by a village chief in a violent attempt to make the them renounce their faith underscores a deterioration in religious freedom in the communist state, critics said on Tuesday.

On March 1, 24 Hmong villagers who had recently converted to Christianity were attacked by a mob, leaving four hospitalized with injuries to their heads and arms. The attack followed warnings from local authorities that they would be expelled from the village if they did not renounce their faith, the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) said in statement.

“Such attacks and acts of harassment against religious communities have multiplied recently in Vietnam, despite the introduction of the new Law on Belief and Religion in January,” VCHR said in a statement.

“The authorities are invoking the law to criminalize legitimate religious activities, creating a climate of impunity for a wide range of violations of freedom of religion or belief,” added the group

In remarks accompanying the statement on the March 1 attack, VCHR President Vo Van Ai said: “Religious persecution is a growing phenomenon” despite freedom of religion or belief being enshrined in the Vietnamese Constitution.

According to VCHR, about 300,000 of the one million Hmong in Vietnam are Christians.

For further reading:

Attack on Hmong Christians Underscores Vietnam Religious Freedom Shortcomings

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Vietnam Security Forces Block Independent Journalist from Leaving to US

Defend the Defenders: Security forces in Tan Son Nhat International Airport, the biggest airport in Vietnam, have barred independent journalist Bui Minh Quoc, vice president of unsanctioned Independent Journalist Association of Vietnam, from taking a flight to the US.

Security officers in the airport stopped him at the border gate on March 20, saying he could not leave the country for national security reasons. Lieutenant Nguyen Hai Nam informed the veteran poet that he is in the list of people banned from going abroad.

Mr. Quoc said he was on his way to the US to attend the graduation ceremony of his son who finished his PhD program in Maryland University.

Three years ago, Mr. Quoc travelled to the US to visit his son without meeting any troubles from the Vietnamese immigration authorities, he told Defend the Defenders.

The Independent Journalist Association of Vietnam works for the right to freedom of press, with its website namely Viet Nam Thoi bao (vietnamthoibao.org).

Many of its managers and members, including President Pham Chi Dung and Vice President Nguyen Tuong Thuy, have been harassed by Vietnam’s authorities.

Along with being under close surveillance and placed de facto under house arrest, IJAVN’s members have been assaulted by thugs while their private residences were attacked with dirty messes. Its website has also been under cyber attacks in many times.

Together with the website of Defend the Defenders (vietnamhumanrightsdefenders.net), the website of IJAVN has also been under collateral protection of the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Vietnam was ranked at the 175th place out of 179 countries in the 179 countries in the RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

Mr. Quoc is among over 100 Vietnamese activists not permitted by authorities to leave the country, according to Defend the Defenders’ counting.

===== March 21 =====

Prisoner of Conscience Tran Thuy Nga Held in Gia Trung, Denied of Meeting with Family

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s authorities had transferred prisoner of conscience Tran Thi Nga to Gia Trung camp in the Central Highlands province of Gia Trung, not in Dak Trung camp in the neighboring province of Dak Lak, as they informed the family last month.

Earlier this week, Mr. Phan Van Phong, the father of Ms. Nga’s two kids, and her children went to Dak Trung camp to visit her but they were told that this facility does not hold Ms. Nga nor other political prisoners.  The family was advised to seek for her in Gia Trung camp.

When the family went to Gia Trung camp, its authorities informed them that Nga is held there but not allowed to meet with her family because she had not cooperated with them. Ms. Nga has denied to confess for wrongdoings and refused to wear clothes with word Criminal, the camp’s authorities said.

Mr. Phong and the kids passed distance of over 1,200 km without being permitted to meet with her.

It is worth noting that in February, authorities in Ha Nam where Ms. Nga has lived before being arrest, transferred her to the Central Highlands without informing her family.

Earlier this week, Vietnam’s authorities also transferred human rights activist Nguyen Van Oai to Gia Trung camp, which is known as one of camps under the authority of the Ministry of Public Security with severe conditions for prisoners.

After convicted in trials which fail to meet international standards for fair trial, prisoners of conscience have been transferred in camps which are far from their families in a bid to cause troubles for their familíe’ visits. By that, Vietnam’s authorities want to break their strong spirit.

For more information about activist Tran Thi Nga, you can go to our website: http://www.vietnamhumanrightsdefenders.net/category/tran-thuy-nga/

===== March 22 =====

Jailed President of Vietnam Republic Party Meets with Lawyers to Prepare for Defense in Upcoming Trial 

Defend the Defenders: Mr. Nguyen Viet Dung, the jailed founder and president of the unsanctioned Vietnam Republic Party, has been permitted to meet with his lawyers Ngo Anh Tuan and Nguyen Kha Thanh to prepare his defense in his trial scheduled on March 28.

The meeting, the first contact of Mr. Dung with his lawyers while in police custody, lasted about one hour in the Temporary detention facility under the authority of the Nghe An province’s Public Security Department on March 22.

According to the two lawyers, their client is healthy and confident of not guilty.

Dung had been held incommunicado since being kidnapped by plainclothes agents on September 27 last year and later Nghe An police announced his arrest on charge of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.

Last week, authorities in Nghe An informed lawyers Tuan and Thanh that Dung’s trial was set on March 28.

The trial may be postponed as lawyer Tuan asked the People’s Court of Nghe An to delay it because he will get married on that day. The court rejected the lawyer’s proposal but it may change its decision.

If convicted, Dung will face imprisonment of up to 20 years, according to the current Vietnamese law.

Dung was an excellent university student but not allowed to graduate due to his social activities. In 2014, Dung established the unregistered Vietnam Republican Party to fight for multi-party democracy and became its president. In April of the same year, he was arrested after participating in a peaceful demonstration on environmental issues in Hanoi. Later he was sentenced to 15 months in prison on allegation of causing public disorders under Article 245 of the 1999 Penal Code. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considered his detention arbitrary in its adopted opinion.

After being released in July 2015, Dung has continued to work to promote human rights and fight for multi-party democracy. He has been detained and beaten many times by plainclothes agents and uniformed police officers.

The arrest and charge of Mr. Dung are part of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on local activists amid increasing social dissatisfaction caused by systemic corruption, human rights violations, poor economic performance, serious environmental pollution, and weak response to China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea).

Since 2017, Vietnam has arrested at least 45 activists and convicted more than 20 activists with lengthy sentences between three and 14 years in prison on allegations under controversial articles of national security provisions in Penal Code.

The ruling Communist Party of Vietnam and its government have vowed to keep the nation under a one-party regime, and request security forces to prevent the formation of opposition parties.

===== March 23 =====

Vietnam to Try Six Key Members of Brotherhood for Democracy on Allegation of Subversion in Early April 

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s authorities will hold a trial of prominent human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and other five key members of the unsanctioned Brotherhood for Democracy on allegation of subversion on April 5, according to the decision of the People’s Court of Hanoi.

According to the decision dated on March 20, Mr.. Dai, 49, Pham Van Troi, 47, Nguyen Trung Ton, 47, Truong Minh Duc, 58, Nguyen Bac Truyen, 50 and Le Thu Ha, 36, will be tried for “Carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Clause 1 of Article 79 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.

Defendants’ lawyers are Nguyen Van Mieng, Le Van Luan, Doan Duyen Hai, Ngo Anh Tuan and Trinh Vinh Phuc.

If convicted, the six pro-democracy activists will face life imprisonment or even capital punishment, according to the current Vietnamese law.

Mr. Dai and his assistant Ms. Ha were arrested on December 16, 2015 with the initial charge of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 99 of the 1999 Penal Code. Mr. Dai is co-founder of BFD.

On July 30 last year, Vietnam’s security forces arrested Mr. Troi, Mr. Ton and Mr. Duc, three key members of the online pro-democracy group, and Mr. Truyen, who was co-founder of BFD but left the organizations several years ago.

On the same day, Vietnam’s authorities announced that the six activists are charged with subversion.

Vietnam’s communists have vowed to keep the country under a one-party regime and requested their government to make all efforts to prevent the formation of opposition parties. The communist government considers BFD one of main targets of its on-going crackdown on local activists.

After the mass arrest in late July last year, police arrested several other senior members of BFD, including its Spokesman Nguyen Trung Truc, Nguyen Van Tuc and Tran Thi Xuan, who are also charged with subversion allegation.

Sentences for the nine key members of BFD will be likely hard given the fact that many activists have been jailed with lengthy sentences recently.

In June-July last year, Vietnam convicted prominent human rights defender Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh and land rights activist Tran Thi Nga, sentencing them with ten and nine years in prison, respectively. Both female activists have kids in school age.

Since early 2017Vietnam has detained at least 45 activists, and convicted over 20 of them on committing crimes under controversial articles of the national security provisions in the Penal Code. The imprisonments given to them vary from three to 14 years.

===== March 24 =====

HCM City Court Rejects to Prosecute Pro-democracy Activist Luu Van Vinh, Requesting Further Investigation on Case of Subversion

 

Defend the Defenders: The People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City has rejected the proposal of the city’s Department of Public Security to prosecute pro-democracy campaigner Luu Van Vinh on allegation of subversion under Article 79 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.

According to his wife Le Thi Thap, his lawyers were informed that the court returned the case to the Department of Public Security, asking it to futher investigate the case.

Mr. Vinh, who had participated in a number of peaceful demonstrations on many issues, including the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea) and environmental ones, was arrested on November 6, 2016 on charge of ” Carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration.”

He was held incommunicado from the day of detention until October 24, 2017 when the city’s police announced that they completed the investigation and handed over the case to the city’s People’s Procuracy, proposing to prosecute him.

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 his friend Nguyen Van Duc 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.

Since early 2017, Vietnam has arrested at least 45 activists and convicted nearly 30 of them 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 168 prisoners.

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

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