Spokesman of Brotherhood for Democracy Convicted on Subversion, Sentenced to 12 Years in Prison

Spokesman Nguyen Trung Truc of Brotherhood for Democracy

Defend the Defenders, September 12, 2018


On September 12, the People’s Court of Vietnam’s central province of Quang Binh convictedNguyen Trung Truc, the spokesman of the banned group Brotherhood for Democracy (BFD) on allegation of subversion.

After the 3-hour trial, the court found Mr. Truc guilty of “carrying out activities aiming to overthrow the government” under Article 79 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code, giving him 12 years in prison and five years of probation afterward.

According to his lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng, only his son Nguyen Minh Tam attended the trial but any representatives of foreign diplomatic missions in the Southeast Asian nation.

One day ahead of Mr. Truc’s trial, Human Rights Watch issued a press release calling the Vietnamese authorities to drop all charges against him and release him immediately.

“Nguyen Trung Truc is yet another victim of the Vietnamese government’s campaign against people who advocate human rights and democracy,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The country is now becoming a giant prison for anyone who speaks up against the government or acts to advance basic rights.”

Few hours after the trial, the US Embassy in Vietnam released a statement saying it is “deeply concerned that a Vietnamese court has convicted Nguyen Trung Truc to 12 years in prison and 5 years’ probation under vague charges of “attempting to overthrow the people’s administration.”

The trend of increased arrests and harsh sentences for peaceful activists in Vietnam is troubling, said the Embassy in its statement.  The US calls on Vietnam to release all prisoners of conscience immediately and to allow all individuals in Vietnam to express their views freely and assemble peacefully without fear of retribution, and urges the Vietnamese government to ensure its actions and laws, including the Penal Code, are consistent with the human rights provisions of Vietnam’s constitution and its international obligations and commitments.

Mr. Truc, 44, was arrested on August 4, 2017 and charged with subversion. He had been kept incommunicado since being detained until lastmonth when he was permitted to meet with his lawyer to prepare for his defense.

During the past 12 months, his family has been permitted only to send him some additional food. Like in other political cases, his lawyer was not been allowed to attend interrogationsduring the pre-trial detention .

Truc has been active in promoting human rights and multi-party democracy in Vietnam, as well as assisting fishermen who have been affected by the environmental disaster in the central coastal region as a result of the discharge of a huge amount of toxic industrial waste by the Taiwanese Formosa steel plant located in the central province of Ha Tinh in May 2016.

He has been harassed by Vietnam’s security forces, including being kidnapped and beaten in 2016 when plainclothes agents abducted him and seven others, bringing them to remote areas in Ha Tinh province where they robbed and tortured them before leaving them in a forest area.

Truc is the 8th member of the Brotherhood for Democracy to be arrested and charged with serious crimes under national security provisions in the Penal Code.Others include prominent human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, Protestant pastor Nguyen Trung Ton, engineer Pham Van Troi, veteran journalist and labor activist Truong Minh Duc, English teacher Le Thu Ha, anti-corruption campaigner Nguyen Van Tuc, humanitarian aid Tran Thi Xuan. All of them were convicted on allegation of subversion and sentenced to between seven and 15 years in prison in April-May.In addition, Vietnam also arrested former teacher and prisoner of conscience Vu Van Hung, who is also a member of the group, and sentenced him to one year in prison in a politically trumped-up case.

The Brotherhood for Democracy is one of the main targets of the ongoing crackdown of the Vietnamese government on local dissent.

Expressing no tolerance withgovernment’s critics, the Vietnamese communist government has convicted 26 activists and given a combined 199 years and nine months in prison and 56 years of probation. The highest sentence of 20 years in prison and five years of probation was given to human rights advocate and democracy activist Le Dinh Luong in the trial against him last month.

In addition, Vietnam has imprisoned 36 protestors who participated in the mass demonstration in mid-June, with imprisonment of between eight months and 42 months. Seven others were given probation.

Since the beginning of 2018, Vietnam has arrested 13 activists on allegation of “Making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 117 or “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the 2015 Penal Code.