Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for February 18-24, 2019: Two Facebookers Arrested, Investigated for “Conducting Anti-state Propaganda”


Defend the Defenders| February 24, 2019

Vietnam’s communist regime continues its ongoing crackdown on local dissent, arresting and holding two Facebookers for investigation for “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code.

Security forces in the Central Highlands province of Quang Ngai have noticed the family of female activist Duong Thi Lanh that she has been charged with “Making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code. She was detained on January 30.

On February 22, authorities in the central province of Quang Ngai arrested local businessman Huynh Dac Tuy on the same allegation.

Vietnam’s authorities are planning to try Vietnamese American citizen Michael Minh Phuong Nguyen and his two Vietnamese friends Huynh Duc Thanh Binh and Tran Long Phi on allegation of “conducting activities aimed to overthrow the government” under Article 109 of the 2015 Penal Code. The trio, arrested on July 7 last year, are facing hard sentence of up to life imprisonment or even death penalty.

Authorities in Can Tho City said they will try local Facebooker Le Minh The on charge of “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the 2015 Penal Code for his online activities which aimed to promote human rights and multi-party democracy on March 6. The member of the unregistered group Hien Phap (Constitution) was arrested on October 10 last year.

On February 24, union activist Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung was releasef after completing his 9-year sentence. He was arrested in early 2010 and charged with “disruption of security” under Article 89 of the 1999 Penal Code for providing assistance for workers during a strike in a factory in the southern province of Tra Vinh. 

===== February 18 =====

Vietnam May Try Two Local Activists, American Citizen on Allegation of Subversion Soon

Defend the Defenders: The Vietnamese communist regime may hold the first-instance hearing to try American citizen Michael Minh Phuong Nguyen and two local activists named Huynh Duc Thanh Binh and Tran Long Phi in late February, Defend the Defenders has learned.

Mr. Tran Van Long, a former political prisoner and the father of Mr. Phi, told Defend the Defenders that he has learned the news from his relatives who went to visit his son earlier this month.

A police officer who is investigating the case told Phi’s relatives that they have completed investigation and the trial is likely to be held in coming weeks. 

Mr. Phi, 23, was kidnapped together with Mr. Nguyen and Mr. Binh on July 7 last year after they returned to Ho Chi Minh City from Hue City where they met with female activist Le My Hanh.

Later, police announced that they charged Binh with “conducting activities to overthrow the government” under Article 109 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code. So far, police have yet publicized the charge(s) against Phi and Nguyen, a Vietnamese American from California.

Police also detained Mr. Huynh Duc Thinh, a former political prisoner from Bao Loc city, Lam Dong province. Without being charged, Mr. Thinh, the father of university student Binh, was held for month and released in late January. However, he has been under house arrest and forced to go to Ho Chi Minh City to report to police every week.

All of the detainees have been held in the temporary detention facility located at No. 4 Phan Dang Luu under the authority of the Police Department of HCM City.

Mr. Long said the trio Long, Nguyen and Thinh would be tried for subversion and face imprisonment of life jail or even death penalty if they are convicted, according to the current Vietnamese law.

Mr. Long said police have conducted search many times the seedling store of Mr. Thinh in Bao Loc city, and they have plan to confiscate the facility as they suspect that it was the place that many activists had gathered to discuss how to deal with the communist regime.

In late December last year, police in Hanoi also issued three summoning letters to request Ms. Hanh for interrogation in relations with the detainees, with whom she met in early July last year. However, Ms. Hanh went into hiding and refused to obey by the police’s request.

Vietnam’s communist regime continues its crackdown on local dissent which started in late 2015 with the arrest of prominent human rights attorney Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Ms. Le Thu Ha.

Vietnam sentenced 40 activists in 2017. One year later, the communist regime arrested 27 activists and convicted 41 with a total 301 years and nine months in prison and 69 years of probation. In addition, it sentenced around 100 peaceful demonstrators with imprisonment of between eight months and 54 months in jail, according to Defend the Defenders’ statistics.

So far this year, Vietnam has arrested five activists without publicizing the charges against them.

According to NOW!Campaign, a coalition of 15 international and domestic NGOs including Defend the Defenders, BPSOS, Civil Rights Defenders and Front Line Defenders, Vietnam is holding around 250 prisoners of conscience. Around ten of them are in pre-trial detention.

===== February 19 ===== 

Detained Female Activist Duong Thi Lanh Charged with “Anti-state Propaganda,” Facing Lengthy Imprisonment

Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Vietnam’s Central Highlands province of Dak Nong have officially charged local female activist Duong Thi Lanh with “conducting anti-state propaganda,” around two weeks after detaining her without arrest warrant, Defend the Defenders has learned.

According to a notice of the province’s Police Department to her family, she will be held in the next three months for investigation on the allegation of “Making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code.

She will face imprisonment of between seven and 12 years in prison if is convicted, according to current Vietnam’s law.

Ms. Lanh, 36, was detained on January 30, 2019 for her peaceful activities which aim to promote and protect human rights and democracy. She reportedly participated in the mass demonstration in Ho Chi Minh City on June 10 last year to protest two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security.

Her arrest is likely linked to her posts and sharing on her Facebook account Ngọc Lan SG, and a part of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on local dissent.

Vietnam is holding around 250 prisoners of conscience, according to Defend the Defenders’ statistics. As may as 24 of them were convicted of “conducting anti-state propaganda” and sentenced to between four and 14 years in prison, and the five remaining are held in pre-trial detention.

===== February 20 ===== 

Vietnam to Try Democracy Activist Le Minh The on Allegation of Abusing Democracy Freedom on March 6

Defend the Defenders: Authorities in the Mekong Delta hub of Can Tho will soon try democracy advocate Le Minh The on charge of “Abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State, lawful rights and interests of organizations and/or s” under Article 331 of the country’s Penal Code.

According to a notice of the People’s Court of Binh Thuy District sent to his family, the court will hold the first-instance hearing on March 6 in its headquarters in the district. The notice has not mentioned who will be his lawyer and it is likely he will be tried without having his own lawyer.

The court has also requested imprisoned democracy activist Huynh Truong Ca to be present to the trial as a privy. In late 2018, Mr. Ca was convicted of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 and sentenced to five years and six months in prison and four years of probation.

Mr. The, 56, was arrested on October 10 last year due to his participation in peaceful protests and posts on Facebook account Lê Minh Thể. He has been held incommunicado since then in a temporary detention facility under the authorities of the district Police Division.

Mr. The and Mr. Ca are members of the unregistered group Hien Phap (Constitution) which aims to educate the public about the human rights they are entitled to under Vietnam’s 2013Constitution. Many of its members were key actors in the mass protest against two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security in Ho Chi Minh City in mid June last year. Since early September 2018, nearly ten members of the group have been detained and charged with controversial articles in the national security provisions in the Penal Code.

Mr. The is facing imprisonment of between  six to 36 months, if is convicted, according to the current Vietnamese law.

He is listed as one of 250 prisoners of conscience by NOW! Campaign, a coalition of 15 international and domestic NGOs including Defend the Defenders, BPSOS, Civil Rights Defenders and Front Line Defenders.

===== February 21 =====

Wife of Prisoner of Conscience Truong Minh Duc Detained after Participating in Vietnam’s UPR

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s security forces detained Ms. Nguyen Kim Thanh, wife of prisoner of conscience Truong Minh Duc after she participated in Vietnam’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva in late January.

In the morning of February 21, when she landed from a flight from Germany to Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City, she was detained by the border security officers.

During the detention from around 7 AM to 1PM of the same day, police officers questioned about her activities, including her participation in the Vietnamese UPR in the UN’s headquarters in Geneva on January 21 as well as meeting with officials from the German Foreign Ministry.

Police officers confiscated her passport before releasing her, requesting her to go to a police station for further interrogation.

Mr. Truong Minh Duc, vice president of the unregistered groups Brotherhood for Democracy and Viet Labor Movement, was arrested on July 30, 2017 and charged with “conducting activities aimed to overthrow the government” under Article 79 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code. In April 2018, he was convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison and three years of probation.

Currently, he is held in Prison No. 6 under the authorities of the Ministry of Public Security in the central province of Nghe An, where political prisoners are kept with severe living conditions.

===== February 22 ===== 

Vietnamese Businessman Prosecuted for “Anti-state Propaganda” Charge

Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Vietnam’s central province of Quang Ngai have arrested local businessman Huynh Dac Tuy and charged him with “Making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code.

According to the state media, Mr. Tuy, a construction businessman from Nghia Lo ward, Quang Ngai city, was detained on February 22 for his Facebook posts which are harmful for the communist regime.

He will be held incommunicado for next three months, and face imprisonment of between seven and 12 years if is convicted, according to the current Vietnamese law.

Mr. Tuy has been the 6th activist being arrested and charged with allegations in the national security provisions of the Penal Code so far this year. Two of them were charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda.”

Vietnam has imprisoned 30 activists on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code or Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code. As many as 24 of them were convicted and sentenced to between four and 14 years in prison and the remaining five are held in pre-trial detention.

===== February 24 ===== 

Union Activist Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung Completes His 9-year Sentence

Defend the Defenders: Co-founder and President of the unregistered group Viet Labor Movement Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung was released today after completing his nine-year sentence, Defend the Defenders has learned.

Mr. Hung, 38, returned to his parent’s house on February 24 from Xuyen Moc Prison camp in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau. His health is deteriorated very much after being inhumanely treated during his imprisonment, according to his fellow Doan Huy Chuong, who was also a prisoner of conscience being convicted in the same case.

Together with Mr. Chuong and Ms. Do Thi Minh Hanh, Hung established the Viet Labor Movement in 2008 to assist workers demand higher salary and better working conditions. 

During a strike in a foreign-invested factory in the southern province of Tra Vinh in 2010, the trio disseminated leaflets about workers’ rights, they were arrested and charged with “disruption of security” under Article 89 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.

In late 2010, they were convicted and Hung was sentenced to nine years in prison while both Chuong and Hanh were given seven years in jail.

Under international pressure, Hanh was released after four years.

According to Amnesty International, Hung was beaten by police officers during interrogation in pre-trial detention.

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