Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for November 5-11, 2018: Dak Lak to Try Well-known HRD Huynh Thuc Vy on November 22
Defend the Defenders| November 11, 2018
Authorities in Vietnam’s Central Highlands province of Dak Lak have decided to hold a hearing on November 22 to try local human rights defender and dissident blogger Huynh Thuc Vy on allegation of “Affronting the national flag or national emblem” under Article 276 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.
The first-instance hearing will be conducted by the People’s Court of Buon Ho town, and it will be open for public, according to the court’s decision. Vy, the mother of a two-year-old child, faces imprisonment of up to three years if is convicted for disrespecting the Vietnamese national flag. Last year, on the occasion of the Independence Day (September 2), she posed a picture in which the Vietnamese national flag was tainted with paint. Authorities said she had sprayed the flag with paints while she has not denied, saying the act is her right to freedom of expression.
On November 9, the People’s Court of Dong Nai province upheld jail sentences given by the People’s Court of Bien Hoa city on July 30 to 15 individuals who participated in the peaceful mass demonstration against two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security on June 10. The demonstrators who affirmed that they are innocent while peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly, were sent back to prison with terms of between eight and 18 months for charge of “disrupting public orders” under Article 318 of the 2015 Penal Code.
Three days prior to the appeal hearing, three Saigon-based lawyers Dang Dinh Manh, Nguyen Van Mieng and Trinh Vinh Phuc were attacked by unknown individuals when they were on their way to meeet with the protesters in the Dong Nai temporary detention facility to prepare for their defense. Manh’s car was likely shot with a hand-made device which broke the vehicle’s right window but the attorneys remain safe.
Vietnam’s authorities have sent human rights defender and democracy campaigner Nguyen Van Tuc, former president of the unregistered organization Brotherhood for Democracy, to Prison camp No. 6 located in the central province of Nghe An. His family will have to travel around 300 km to visit him, who is suffering from a number of severe diseases.
Mr. Hua Phi, head of the Cao Dai Church in Lam Dong province’s Duc Trong district, said local authorities sent police to set fire to the store room of his coffee plantation this week as a reprisal of his recent meeting with US’s diplomats in Ho Chi Minh City. The police act was one of series of harassments against him in recent years, including an assault by police on June 22, 2018 when uniformed and plainclothes officers burst in Hua Phi’s home, covered his head with clothes, and beat him unconscious.
===== November 6 =====
Vietnamese Human Rights Attorneys AttackedThree Days Before Appeal Hearing of 15 Peaceful Protesters in Dong Nai
Defend the Defenders: Three human rights lawyers named Dang Dinh Manh, Nguyen Van Mieng and Trinh Vinh Phuc have been attacked by unknown individuals few days ahead of the appeal hearing of 15 peaceful demonstraters, Defend the Defenders has learned.
Lawyer Manh said that the three attorneys went to Bien Hoa with his car in the morning of November 6 to meet with their clients to prepare for their defense in the appeal hearing set on November 9. When they were inside the car and ready to move, they heard a bid explosion and saw the window glass of the car’s right side broke.
It was likely some individuals shot Manh’s car with a hand-made device. However, it was not a gun, according to how the glass broke, said the lawyers.
Manh, Mieng and Phuc are among few lawyers who often involve in political cases in recent years to protect local dissidents.
The assault may be made due to their participation in the appeal hearing of 15 peaceful protesters from Bien Hoa city which will be carried out by the People’s Court of Dong Nai province. The convicted protesters challenged the decision of the People’s Court of Bien Hoa city made on July 30 in a trial in which 15 out of 20 peaceful demonstrators were sentenced to between eight and 18 months in prison just because of joining peaceful demonstration on June 10 to protest two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security.
After the trial, lawyer Manh said authorities in Dong Nai threatened the convicted protesters, saying they should not appeal the court’s decision otherwise they may receive harder sentences.
This is the second attack against Vietnamese lawyers in recent years. In 2016, Hanoi-based human rights lawyers Tran Thu Nam and Le Van Luan were also attacked by plainclothes agents when they went to visit the family of Do Dang Du, who was beaten to death while being held in a detention center under the authority of the Hanoi Police Department. Later, communal policemen came to the lawyers’ private residence to apologize for the attack and ask for forgiveness.
In mid June, tens of thousands of Vietnamese from different social groups rallied on streets in Ho Chi Minh City, Dong Nai, Nha Trang, Hanoi, Binh Duong, Binh Thuan and other localities in a nationwide demonstration to protest Vietnamese communist regime’s plan to approve the two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security. The first is likely to favor Chinese investors to hire land for 99 years amid increasing concerns about Beijing’s aggressiveness in the South China Sea while the second aims to silence online critics.
In response to the demonstration biggest for decades, Vietnam’s communist regime used violent measures to deal with peaceful protesters. Authorities in manylocations used water cannons, tear gas and riot police to disperse the demonstration.
Police beat and arrested hundreds of protesters. So far, nearly 100 protesters have been convicted, 98 of them were sentenced to between eight and 54 months in prisons while eight of them were given probation of between five months and two years for allegation of causign public disorders.
Vietnam’s government is expected to prosecute many other mid-June protesters in coming weeks. A human rights defenders told Defend the Defenders that authorities in the central province of Binh Thuan have placed many protesters under house arrest and may try soon on allegation of disturbing public security.
===== November 8 =====
Trial against HRD Huynh Thuc Vy on Disrespecting National Flag Set on Nov 22
Defend the Defenders: The People’s Court of Buon Ho town in Vietnam’s Central Highlands province of Dak Lak has decided to carry out a trial against local human rights defender Huynh Thuc Vy on charge of “Affronting the national flag or national emblem” under Article 276 of the country’s 1999 Penal Codeon November 22.
According to the decision’s copy sent to the activist, the trial will be open for public and will start at 7.30 AM of November 22 at the town court’s headquarters.
Vy, who has a daughter of two-year age, may face imprisonment of up to three years, if is convicted, according to the current Vietnamese law.
Last week, authorities in Dak Lak province issued a decision banning her from going abroad and placing her under house arrest.
Three months ago, authorities in Dak Lak sent a large number of police officers to Vy’s private residence to arrest her and conduct her house searching. They confiscated a number of her personal items, including books and cell phones. They released her in late evening of the same day after issuing a decision to launch a probe to investigate her on allegation of disrespecting Vietnam’s national flag.
The allegation linked to an event last yearwhenVy was pictured with the Vietnamese national flag which was tainted with paint. Someone said she intentionally defamed the flag that she has never recognized.
The arrest and prosecution of Mrs. Vy aim to silence her who has publicly declared that she has never recognize the communist regime.
She has posted a number of articles for human rights and multi-party democracy, including a book titled “Nhận định Sự thật Tự do và Nhân quyền” (A view on Truth, Freedom and Human Rights). She also advocates for rights of ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands, often visiting families of prisoners of conscience in the region.
She is among founders of the unsanctioned organization Vietnam Women for Human Rights and was its president before getting maternal leave.
Vy is banned from foreign trip as police confiscated her passport when she was on her way to attend a workshop on cyber security organized by Reporters Without Borders and Defend the Defenders in Bangkok in June 2015.
She was interrogated many times in the past. In 2012, she was arrested by the police, put in a car that went for a 1,000kms. She was then interrogated continuously for 12 hours, before being dropped at a fuel station at midnight.
In May2018, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) listed Vy as one of five female activists who are risking their lives to protect others’ rights. Other activists include Wang Yu from China, Maria Chin Abdullah from Malaysia, Anchana Heemina from Thailand and Phyoe Phyoe Aung from Myanmar.
Sentenced Democracy Campaigner Nguyen Van Tuc Sent to Prison Far from His Family
Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s authorities have sent democracy campaigner and human rights defender Nguyen Van Tuc to Prison camp No. 6 in the central province of Nghe An, two months after rejecting his appeal.
His wife Bui Thi Re informed Defend the Defenders that on November 8 she went to visit him in the temporary detention facility under the authority of Thai Binh province’s Police Department where he had been held since being arrested in September last year, however, the facility’s authorities said he had been taken to Prison camp No. 6 to serve his sentence.
Mrs. Re said she will have to travel around 300 km from her native province of Thai Binh province to Prison camp No. 6 every month to visit him.
Mr. Tuc was arrested for the second time on September 1, 2017 and charged with subversion under Article 79 of the 1999 Penal Code when he was the president of the unregistered group Brotherhood for Democracy. Nine years before the second detention, he was arrested and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88, and later was sentenced to four years in prison.
In April this year, he was convicted by the People’s Court of Thai Binh province and sentenced to 13 years in prison and five years of probation, and in mid-September, the Higher People’s Court in Hanoi upheld the sentence.
It is unclear whether he can survive in prison given the poor living conditions in Vietnam’s prisons and inhumane treatments of prisons’ guards, especially for prisoners of conscience. Mr. Tuc has very bad hemorrhoids and he hasa lot of rectal bleeding.
Mr. Tuc is the 9th member of Brotherhood for Democracy being imprisoned this year. Eight of them, including its founder Nguyen Van Dai, were also convicted of subversion and sentenced to prison with jail terms of between seven and 15 years, and probation of between one and five years.
The London-based Amnesty Internationalhas listed Mr. Tuc among nearly 100 prisoners of conscience in Vietnam. The right group once called on Hanoi to drop the charges against Tuc and other activists of the Brotherhood for Democracy.Now!Campaign, a coalition of 14 domestic and international NGOs including Defend the Defenders, Civil Rights Defenders and Front Line Defenders, has also named him among over 250 prisoners of conscience.
Sending prisoners of conscience to prisons far from their families is a common practice of the Vietnamese communist regime in a bid to create additional difficulties for their relatives to conduct regular prison visits.
===== November 9 =====
Dong Nai Court Upholds Sentences of 15 Mid-June Protesters
Defend the Defenders: On November 9, the People’s Court of Dong Nai province rejected the appeals of 15 individuals who had been sentenced by a lower court four months ago to between eight and 18 months in prison for their participation in a peaceful demonstration against two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security in mid June this year.
At the end of the appeal hearing which lasted around four hours of Friday, the court upheld the sentences given by the People’s Court of Bien Hoa city on July 30.
According to the court’s decision on November 9 which is likely final judgement, Mr. Tran Nguyen Duy Quang will have to spend 18 months in prison, Mr. Pham Ngoc Hanh- 16 months, Vo Nhu Huynh- eight months and the remaining 12 demonstrators- ten months each on allegation of “disrupting public orders” under Article 318 of the 2015 Penal Code. Six of them are female.
Saigon-based lawyer Dang Dinh Manh, one of attorneys defending 15 protesters, said after the first-instance hearing, the convicted demonstrators had filled appeals seeking for sentence reduction, however, in the appeal hearing, they affirmed that they are innocent and requested for immediate and unconditional release.
The lawyers also stood that their clients should be freed because they were sentenced just for peacefully exercised their rights to freedom of expression and assembly which are enshrined in the country’s 2013 Constitution.
Despite the defendants’ claims and their lawyers’ defenses, the court still kept to uphold their jail sentences.
The convicted protesters are among nearly 90 mid-June protesters who have been imprisoned on allegation of causing public disorders so far this year. Many others have been imprisoned or held in police custody for calling for peaceful demonstration or taking part in the mass demonstration in mid June to protest the two bills. The first is likely to favor Chinese investors to hire land for 99 years amid increasing concerns about Beijing’s aggressiveness in the South China Sea while the second aims to silence online critics.
Vietnamese Police Torch Farm Equipment of Dissident Religious Figure
RFA: Police in Vietnam’s Central Highlands set fire to the store room of a Cao Dai priest’s coffee plantation this week, angered that he had escaped their surveillance in order to meet with U.S. diplomats in Saigon, the priest said on Friday.
Speaking to RFA’s Vietnamese Service, Hua Phi—head of the Cao Dai Church in Lam Dong province’s Duc Trong district—said that he discovered the damage after he returned from his meeting in Saigon, also called Ho Chi Minh City.
“I visited my coffee plantation, but when I entered the storage area, I saw the door had been broken in and all three rooms set ablaze. All the equipment there was damaged,” he said.
District police had come to ask about him while he was away, and learned that he had gone to Saigon, Hua Phi said.
“Even though they were supposed to watch me night and day, I was still able to get out, and they were so angry that they burned all my tools,” he said.
The arson attack followed an assault by police on June 22, when uniformed and plainclothes officers burst in Hua Phi’s home, covered his head with clothes, and beat him unconscious, the Vietnamese rights group Defend the Defenders said in a June 23 report.
Family members said that three hours before the attack, two police officers had arrived to deliver a summons requiring him to report to authorities because of an administrative fine imposed on him for his activities, Defend the Defenders said.
‘I refused to go’
In January, Hua Phi had ignored similar calls to meet with police, he told RFA in an earlier report.
“The Communist Party has established an official branch [of the Cao Dai faith] in order to control us, the unofficial one,” Hua Phi said.
“From Jan. 12 to Jan. 28, I received a total of seven summonses from the police requiring me to meet with them related to my having ‘offended the nation,” Hua Phi said.
“But I refused to go, because the charges are untrue.”
On Jan. 29, police arrived in a taxi to take him to their station, where they accused him of having communicated with international media and foreign delegations, Hua Phi told RFA.
“There were eight provincial police officers there, along with four district police officers, and some communal police officers. In the end they put me under so much pressure that I fainted and they had to call a cab to take me home,” he said.
Vietnam’s government officially recognizes the Cao Dai faith, which combines elements of many religions, but imposes harsh controls on dissenting groups who do not follow the state-sanctioned branches.
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