Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for March 26-April 1, 2018: Vietnam to Try Nine Activists in Coming Days, Heavy Sentences Expected

Defend the Defenders | April 1, 2018

Vietnam’s authorities are going to hold first-instance hearings of many activists in the next two weeks and the sentences for them are likely to be severe given the unfair procedures and the results of recent political trials.

On April 5-6, the People’s Court of Hanoi will try six human rights defenders of the unsanctioned Brotherhood for Democracy namely Nguyen Van Dai, Nguyen Trung Ton, Nguyen Bac Truyen, Pham Van Troi, Truong Minh Duc and Le Thu Ha on allegation of subversion under Article 79 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code. Prominent human rights attorney Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Ms. Le Thu Ha were arrested on December 16, 2015 while others were detained on July 30 last year.

The People’s Court of Thai Binh will conduct a trial of Mr. Nguyen Van Tuc, another key member of the online pro-democracy group, on April 10. The 54-year old former prisoner of conscience was arrested in September last year, also accused of “”carrying out attempts to overthrow the people’s administration” under Article 79.

Two days later, former prisoner of conscience Nguyen Viet Dung, the founder and the president of the unregistered Vietnam Republican Party, will go to the first-instance hearing held by the People’s Court of Nghe An on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code. Nghe An province’s police kidnapped him in late September last year and later announced his arrest. His trial was set on March 28 but re-schuled because one of his lawyers, attorney Ngo Anh Tuan was busy in late March for his own wedding.

The People’s Court of Hanoi announced that it will hold trial of former school teacher Vu Van Hung, another member of the Brotherhood for Democracy on April 12 on allegation of “Intentionally inflicting injury on or causing harm to the health of other persons” under Article 134 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code. However, the trial may be moved to another day as Mr. Hung’s lawyer Ngo Anh Tuan will attend the trial of Nguyen Viet Dung on the same day.

The nine activists were targetted just because they exercise the basic human rights enshrined in the country’s 2013 Constitution and the rights in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in which Vietnam is a signatory party.

All the trials are open, however, Vietnam’s authorities have began applying different measures to prevent local activists from attending in. Police officers reportedly came to former prisoner of conscience Nguyen Xuan Nghia in Haiphong, who was a senior member of the Brotherhood for Democracy to request him not go to Hanoi on April 5 if he has a plan to observe the trial of human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and five other activists. So far, the families of the defendants have yet to receive permissions which will grant them to go inside the court’s room.

Nghe An province’s authorities have not permitted imprisoned labor activist and environmentalist Hoang Duc Binh to meet with his family since being arrested in mid-May last year. Mr. Binh, convicted on February 6 and sentenced to 14 years for his peaceful activities, is allowed to receive clothes and food worth less than VND50,000 ($2.2) in every each of three visits a month, his family said.

Binh has appealed the decision of the People’s Court of Dien Chau district in the first-instance hearing. His appeal hearing is expected to be held in coming weeks.

Dissident singer Do Nguyen Mai Khoi, who is considered a Vietnam’s version of the Pussy Riots music band in Russia, was detained and interrogated for eight hours by Vietnam’s security forces on March 27 after returning from her European tour. The singer, who was eliminated in early stage of a rally for a seat in the country’s highest legislative body National Assembly in the general election in May 2016, has used her music to fight for freedom of creation.

===== March 27 =====

Labor Activist, Environmentalist Hoang Duc Binh Yet to Allowed to Meet with Family Since Being Arrested in May Last Year

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s authorities have not permitted jailed labor activist and environmentalist Hoang Duc Binh to meet with his family since being arrested in May last year.

Binh, who was kidnapped on May 15 by plainclothes agents and later charged with “resisting persons in the performance of their official duties” under Article 330 and “Abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens” under Article 331 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code,  is currently held in the Temporary detention facility under the authority of the Nghe An province’s police.

On February 6 this year, the People’s Court in Dien Chau district convicted him and sentenced to 14 years in prison by the on February 6 this year

Hoang Nguyen, an younger brother of the imprisoned activist said his family is allowed to provide clothes and additional food for Binh three times a month.

Every time, the family can send a package of goods with total weight below three kilograms, while the food value must not exceed VND50,000 ($2.2), Hoang Nguyen said, adding the last time on March 27, his mother supplied his brother with two eggs and a little pork.

Hoang Nguyen said his mother has asked the authorities to allow her to meet with Hoang Duc Binh for one minute just to know whether he is healthy or not, but they denied.

Hoang Duc Binh, whose physical apperance is bad on the first-instance trial likely suffering from torture, has filled appealing the court’s decision and his appreal hearing is expected to be held in coming weeks.

After his arrest and conviction, many foreign countries and international human rights organizations have condemned Vietnam’s government, requesting Hanoi to release Hoang Duc Binh and other prisoners of conscience immediately and unconditionally.

On February 23, UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights released a statementin which UN human rights experts, including Baskut Tuncak, Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and Hazardous Substances and Wastes and Baskut Tuncak, Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and Hazardous Substances and Wastes  have called for the release of individuals namely Hoang Duc Binh, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh and Nguyen Van Hoa who are jailed for writing about and reacting to a discharge of toxic industrial chemicals into coastal waters of Vietnam.

For more information about the case of Hoang Duc Binh, please go to our website: http://www.vietnamhumanrightsdefenders.net/category/hoang-duc-binh-viet-labor/

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Vietnam Dissident Singer Mai Khoi Detained for 8 Hours After European Tour

Defend the Defenders: On March 27, Vietnam’s authorities detained dissident singer Do Nguyen Mai Khoi for eight hours when she returned the home country from Europe where she made an entertiment tour.

The singer, who was considered by international media as a Vietnamese version of the Russian “Pussy Riot,”was held by security officers at the Noi Bai border gate in early morning of Tuesday.

She was placed in a close room in the Noi Bai International Airport where security officers questioned her about her tour and activities in Europe. They also confiscated many discks of her newly-launched album tittled Dissent.

Once considered Lagy Gala in Vietnam, Do Nguyen Mai Khoi has used her music to fight for the right to freedom of creation and expression.

She ran for a seat in Vietnam’s highest legislative body National Assembly in the country’s General Election in 2016, however, the singer was eliminated early by the Vietnam Father Front, a mass organization working under umbrella of the Communist Party of Vietnam which has ruled the country for decades.

Due to her activism, she and her Australian husband have been evicted from their apartments for three times while her performances in private areas were raid by security forces. She has been included in a watch list of Vietnam’s security forces although she is permitted to go abroad.

Last month, she performed some products at a ceremony of the Prague-based People in Need, inwhich the a non-governmental, non-profit organization founded on the ideals of humanism, freedom, equality and solidarityawarded prominentVietnamese dissident writer Pham Doan Trangwith its Homo Homini Prize for 2017 for her contribution to human rights and democracy.

Last year, when US President Donald Trump visited Hanoi, Do Nguyen Mai Khoi held a protest against him by holding up a poster which said “Piss on you Trump”as she blamed him for ignoring human rights issues during his trip to the Southeast Asian nation. Her move was not welcomed by many local activists, however.

One year earlier, she was among few social activists permitted to meet with then US President Barack Obama when he made his maiden and last visit to the communist nation.

During her European tour, Do Nguyen Mai Khoi promoted her new album “Bat Dong” or “Disagreement.” Her song “Please, sir” pleads with the leader of the Communist Party ofVietnam to allow localpeople to sing, publish, share and travel freely.

Over a hundred of Vietnamese activists have been banned from travel abroad while dozens of foreigners with Vietnamese origin have not been permitted to visit the country. Many others have been detained briefly when returning to the home country after visiting foreign countries.

===== March 28 =====

First-instance Hearing of President of Vietnam Republican Party Nguyen Viet Dung Postponed due to Absence of Lawyers

 Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Nghe An province have postponed the first-instance hearing of Nguyen Viet Dung, the founder and president of the unregistered Vietnam Republican Party, which was scheduled on March 28.

The reason of the move is the absence of two lawyers Ngo Anh Tuan and Le Kha Thanh. The first attorney has his own wedding today and asked the People’s Court of Nghe An to hold the trial of Dung to another day.

The court said that the trial will be re-scheduled on April 12.

Mr. Nguyen Viet Hung, the father of the defendant, said he was allowed to enter the court’s building and saw his son who is healthy.

Dung, a former prisoner of conscience, was kidnapped by plainclothes agents in his home province of Nghe An on September 27, 2017. Later, he was charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code. Witnesses reported that he was brutally beaten by kidnappers during the abduction.

On May 26, one day prior to the planned trial of Dung, Human Rights Watch issued a statementcalling on Vietnam to drop all charges against Dung and release him immediately.The New York-based organization also condemned Vietnam’s use of controversial articles including Articles 79 and 88 in the national security provisions of the Penal Code to silence local political dissidents, human rights defenders and social activists.

For details of the case of Dung, please go to our website:

Meanwhile, Vietnam will try prominent human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and five key members of the unsanctioned Brotherhood for Democracy namely Pham Van Troi, Nguyen Trung Ton, Truong Minh Duc, Nguyen Bac Truyen and Le Thu Ha on allegation of subversion under Article 79 of the 1999 Penal Code.

Vietnam continues its ongoing crackdown on local activists which started in late 2015 and became hardest last year with arrests of at least 45 activists and conviction of around 20 with lengthy sentences of between three and 16 years in prisons.

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Trial of Former Prisoner of Conscience Vu Van Hung Set on April 12

Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Hanoi have a plan to hold the first-instance hearing of former prisoner of conscience Vu Van Hung on allegation of “Intentionally inflicting injury on or causing harm to the health of other persons,” the allegation under Article 134 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code on April 12, said his wife Ly Thi Mai.

Mrs. Mai told Defend the Defenders that she had received a call from the People’s Court of Hanoi in which a representative of the court informed her about its plan.

According to the current law, people accused of “inflicting injury” may face imprisonment of between six months to 12 years in prison.

However, the trial may not be conducted on that day as his lawyer Ngo Anh Tuan will be arranged with defense of another activist, also former prisoner of conscience Nguyen Viet Dung whose first-instance will be on the same day.

Mr. Hung, a former secondary school teacher, was arrested on January 4 after participating in a meeting of the unsanctioned Chu Van An Teachers Association in a restaurant in Thanh Xuan Bac ward, Thanh Xuan district.

Initially, Mr. Hung was alleged with “causing public disorders” under Article 318 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code. Several days later, Hanoi’s authorities changed the charge against him to “Intentionally inflicting injury” without unveiling information about whom he inflicted injury and what the level of his victim’s injury.

At a meeting with his lawyer after several days being in police custody, Hung said when the meeting with other activists on January 4 ended, he went back to his private residence in Ha Dong district by bus. Two plainclothes agents followed him and they provoked him near his house.

The agents attacked him and with the support of local police, they detained him to the police station of Thanh Xuan Bac ward, Thanh Xuan district, Hung told his lawyer. Later, he was taken to the temporary detention facility of the Thanh Xuan district police.

Hung’s allegation is false, and his arrest is related to his human rights activities as Vietnam’s security forces often detain or kidnap targeted activists in trumped-up cases and later charge them with criminal allegations.

As a member of the Brotherhood for Democracy, Mr. Hung has been targeted for long time ago. He was summoned by Hanoi police for interrogation about his membership in the pro-democracy group after authorities in the capital city detained its nine key members on allegation of subversion.

Brotherhood for Democracy is one of main targets of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on local dissent, the most severe campaign for many years.

Last year, Vietnam arrested key members of the online organization, including Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Van Troi, Nguyen Van Tuc, Truong Minh Duc, and Nguyen Trung Truc. The founder Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Ms. Le Thu Ha were arrested in late 2015. They were charged with subversion under Article 79 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code and face life imprisonment or even death punishment if convicted, according to the current law.

Vietnam’s communist government planned to try Nguyen Van Dai, Pham Van Troi, Nguyen Trung Ton, Nguyen Bac Truyen, Truong Minh Duc and Le Thu Ha on April 4-5.

Mr. Hung is a former political prisoner. In 2008, he was arrested for hanging banners calling for multi-party democracy and later convicted with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code. He was sentenced to three years in jail and three years under house arrest. He was forced to abandon his job as a physic teacher.

After being released in 2011, Hung has actively participated in peaceful demonstrations and meetings on social issues, including the environmental disaster caused by the toxic industrial waste discharge of the Taiwanese Formosa steel plant in the central coastal region in 2016 which caused massive death of marine there.

The Communist Party of Vietnam has ruled the country for decades and strives to maintain the nation under a one-party regime.

Since the 12th National Congress of the party in February 2016 with appointments of many police officers to senior positions of the party and state apparatuses, Vietnam has launched severe campaign to suppress local political dissidents, human rights defenders, social activists and online bloggers.

The peak of the crackdown was 2017 with arrests of at least 45 activists on allegations under controversial articles 79 and 88 of the 1999 Penal Code. The communist government convicted 19 activists, sentencing them to between three and 16 years in prisons. In addition, Vietnam also expelled two pro-democracy activists to France.

In February, Vietnam convicted four activists Hoang Duc Binh, Vu Quang Thuan, Nguyen Van Dien and Tran Hoang Phuc and sentenced them to between six and 14 years in prison.

Many foreign governments including the US and Germany and the EU as well as international human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have condemned Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on local activists, asking Hanoi to drop all charges against them and release all prisoners of conscience, whose number is between 120 and 168.

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Trial of Former Prisoner of Conscience Nguyen Van Tuc Set on April 10 

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s authorities will conduct a trial of former prisoner of conscience Nguyen Van Tuc on allegation of subversion on April 10, according to his lawyer Ngo Anh Tuan.

The lawyer informed Mr. Tuc’s family that the first-instance will be held by the People’s Court of Thai Binh province.

Mr. Tuc, who was arrested on September 1 last year on charge of “carrying out attempts to overthrow the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the 1999 Penal Code, has been kept incommunicado since being detained.

Lawyer Tuan has not been permitted to meet with his client to prepare for his defense, the family said.

Mr. Tuc is the 9th member of the unregistered Brotherhood for Democracy being arrested last year as Vietnam’s regime considers the online pro-democracy group as a potential threat for its political monopoly in the Southeast Asian nation.

He and other key members of the organization namely Nguyen Van Dai, Pham Van Troi, Truong Minh Duc, Nguyen Trung Ton, Nguyen Bac Truyen, Le Thu Ha, Nguyen Trung Truc and Tran Thi Xuan are facing life imprisonment or even death penalty if convicted, according to the current Vietnamese law. The trial against the first six democracy campaigners was set on April 5-6.

Mr. Tuc, born in 1964, was arrested for the first time in September 2008 for spreading leaflets protesting China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty and calling for multi-party democracy. He was charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code. Later, he was sentenced to four years in prison and three years under house arrest.

After being released in 2012, he continued his activities to promote human rights and work for multi-party democracy. He joined Brotherhood for Democracy co-established by human rights attorney Nguyen Van Dai who was detained on December 16, 2015 with the initial charge of “conducting anti-state propaganda.”

The latest arrest of Mr. Tuc is part of the ongoing crackdown of Vietnam’s communist regime on local activists which started in late 2015 and became the peak last year with detention of at least 45 activists.

Since the begining of 2017, Vietnam has convicted at least 25 activists and sentenced them to lengthy imprisonments of between three and 16 years. Among the jailed activists are prominent human rights defender Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh and land right activist Tran Thi Nga, both have children at school age.

===== April 1 =====

Former Prisoner of Conscience Nguyen Xuan Nghia Demanded not to Go to Hanoi on April 5

Defend the Defenders: Authorities in the northern port city of Haiphong have requested former prisoner of conscience Nguyen Xuan Nghia not go to the capital city of Hanoi on the day of the trial of six members of the unsanctioned Brotherhood for Democracy scheduled on April 5-6.

Mr. Nghia, who held a senior post of the Brotherhood for Democracy for two months before leaving the online pro-democracy organization, told Defend the Defenders that on March 28, three security officers from the city’s Police Department came to his house and made the request.

They threatened that serious consequences will be for him if he does not obey by their warning.

Nearly 28 months after the arrest of prominent human rights attorney Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Ms. Le Thu Ha and more than eight months of the detentions of Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Van Troi, Truong Minh Duc and Pham Van Troi, Vietnam’s authorities will bring them to court on allegation of “carrying out attempts to overthrow the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.

Vietnam’s communist government has also arrested four other members of the organization namely Nguyen Van Tuc, Nguyen Trung Truc, Tran Thi Xuan and Vu Van Hung. The first three were accused of subversion while the last one is charged with “Intentionally inflicting injury on or causing harm to the health of other persons,” the allegation under Article 134 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code.

Mr. Nghia, although he left the organization two months after joining it, was summoned by police many times last year for interrogation about his membership.

According to the current Vietnamese law, every citizen can enter courtrooms to observe open trials. However, in political cases, police make all efforts to prevent activists from entering courtrooms or gathering near the courts’ areas. In trials of human rights defenders Nguyen Ngọc Nhu Quynh, Tran Thi Nga and Hoang Duc Binh in 2017-2018, many activists were brutally beaten, robbed and detained by security forces when they came to support the accused activists.

In 2016, the Ministry of Public Security issued a circular (No. 13/2016/TT-BCA) in which security forces are empowered to carry out all activities to disperse gathering near courts’ areas during hearings and arrest violators with accusation of “causing public disorders.”

Based on experiences in political cases in the past, authorities in many Vietnamese locations are likely to place local activists under de facto house arrest in order to prevent them from going out to support imprisoned activists.

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