Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for July 1-7, 2019: Human Rights Lawyer Tran Vu Hai Politically Probed for Involving in Tax Evasion Allegation Case


Defend the Defenders | July 7, 2019


On July 2, authorities in the central province of Khanh Hoa issued a decision to probe human rights lawyer Tran Vu Hai and his wife Ngo Tuyet Phuong for an allegation of tax evasion in a property deal three years ago in Nha Trang city. Accordingly, the couple was accused of helping two local residents in paying less tax after selling their land slot to the lawyers by declaring a lower transaction price.

Police in Khanh Hoa, with support from other colleagues from the Ministry of Public Security, conducted a search of the law company’s office in Hanoi in which Mrs. Phuong is its director and Mr. Hai is the office head, taking a lot of documents not relevant to the case, and a large sum of case. Their private residence was also searched by police. On the same day, authorities issued a decision placing the couple under foreign travel and limit their movement inside the country.

Despite great support from his colleagues and community, Mr. Hai said he will suspend his consultation activities. The case is likely politically motivated in a bid to prevent him from involving in a number of cases, including the case of former prisoner of conscience Truong Duy Nhat who was kidnapped in Thailand in late January and is held in Hanoi for a criminal charge.

It seems that the Ministry of Public Security is launching a campaign to impose maltreatment against prisoners of conscience in many prisons across the country. In response, many prisoners of conscience in Prion camp No. 5 in Yen Dinh district, Thanh Hoa province, and Prison camp No. 6 in Thanh Chuong district in Nghe An province are conducting hunger strike to protest. Some of them are in their 28 days of fasting and their health is under critical condition.

Vietnam is holding at least 231 prisoners of conscience, according to Defend the Defenders’ statistics. As many as 33 activists are held in pre-trial detention, one (Mr. Phan Van Thu) is in life imprisonment and the sentence of another is unknown, 195 remaining were sentenced to a total 1,621 years and four months and 194 of them are serving their sentences in prisons across the nation. Only Mrs. Huynh Thuc Vy, who was sentenced to 33 months, is under suspended thanks to her two children under three years old.

Former prisoner of conscience Nguyen Xuan Nghia is barred from participating in a cultural event in his native city of Hai Phong scheduled on July 8. His friend Pham Xuan Truong is going to give his two paintings to the US Embassy in Vietnam.

===== July 1 =====

Vietnam Holds At Least 231 Prisoners of Conscience: DTD

Defend the Defenders: According to Defend the Defenders (DTD)’s statistics, Vietnam is holding at least 231 prisoners of conscience as of June 30, 2019.

With exception of Mrs. Huynh Thuc Vy, who is under probation thanks to her two children under three years old after being sentenced to 33 months in prison, 230 are held in detention facilities and prison camps with severe living conditions.

As many as 33 activists are held in pre-trial detention, Mr. Phan Van Thu is serving a life sentence and the sentence of Rmah Pro is unknown, 195 remaining prisoners of conscience are serving a total 1,621 years and four months in jail with an average of 8.31 years for everyone.

According to the allegations: 50 convicted or accused of subversion, 32 others convicted or accused of “conducting anti-state propaganda,” 54 religious activists convicted of “undermining unity policy” and nine are convicted or accused of “disruption of security” as well as 12 are said to be for “abusing democratic freedom.” Most of the remaining are convicted of “causing public orders” for their participation in the mass demonstration to protest two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security in many localities on June 10, 2018.

As many as 13 activists are held without clear allegation and their pre-trial detention periods are over four months as stated in the Criminal Code Procedures. They are held incommunicado and have yet been allowed to meet with their relatives and lawyers.

Twenty of them are female, and the remaining are men.

Vietnam’s communist regime continues its crackdown on dissidents, human rights defenders, social activists and Facebookers. In 2018, Vietnam arrested 30 activists and convicted 40 with a total 300 years in prison and 70 years of probation. In the first half of 2019, Vietnam detained at least 20 activists and convicted nine with a total 50 years in jail and 17 years of probation.

June, Vietnam convicted six activists, and Vietnamese American Michael Minh Phuong Nguyen was sentenced to the highest imprisonment of 12 years.

All 231 prisoners of conscience were arrested in trumped-up cases and 197 activists are serving their sentences under inhumane conditions in prisons across the nation. They were tried in trials which failed to meet international standards for a fair trial.

During their pre-trial detention, they are subjects to continuous interrogation without the presence of lawyers and are being tortured physically and mentally. After being convicted, they were transferred to prison camps far from their families so their families find difficulties in conducting regular prison visits.

Prisoners of conscience are under maltreatment, some have been beaten by prison guards or criminal inmates backed by prisons’ authorities.

Many prisoners of conscience, likely criminal inmates, are forced to hard work without being equipped properly.

Forthe list of prisoners of conscience, you can visit:

===== July 2 =====

Well-known Vietnamese Human Rights Lawyer Probed for Involvement in Tax Evasion Case

Defend the Defenders: On July 2, authorities in Vietnam’s central province of Khanh Hoa issued a decision to investigate prominent human rights lawyer Tran Vu Hai and his wife Ngo Tuyet Phuong for their involvement in a tax evasion case three years ago.

According to the state media, the Investigation Agency under the Public Security Department of Khanh Hoa province conducted searching the couple’s private residence in Ho Tay district, Hanoi as well as the office of a law firm in which Mr. Hai is the office head while his wife is its director.

It was reported police confiscated a large amount of documentation and money from the office located in Nguyen Thai Hoc street in Hanoi’s center. In his statement posted on his Facebook page Vu Hai Tran later on the day, Mr. Hai said that police have taken away many documents not related to the case, and the money from other clients. He requests the Khanh Hoa province’s police return his law firm’s documents as well as the money.

In the late afternoon of Tuesday, authorities in Khanh Hoa province issued a decision to place the lawyer’s couple under limited movement and ban them from leaving the country. The same move was also imposed on the other two persons in the case.

According to sources, three years ago, in 2016, Mr. Hai and his wife bought a real estate from Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hanh and Ngo Van Lam, two residents from Khanh Hoa province. The deal was based not on the market price so the the sellers paid a low selling tax. Authorities in Khanh Hoa consider that the sellers committed tax evasion while Hai and his wife had helped them in the crime.

It is unclear whether or not the charge against attorney Tran and his wife is politically motivated. Observers said the case is not the main purpose of the Khanh Hoa province’s police and the Ministry of Public Security. He is targetted because he is a human rights lawyer and an attorney for well-known individuals in the country, including Pham Nhat Vuong, the real magnat and the richest Vietnamese businessman, and former prisoner of conscience Truong Duy Nhat, who was kidnapped in Bangkok in late January and taken to the ministry’s T16 detention facility in Hanoi for investigation on charge of power abuse when he was the office representative head of the Dai Doan Ket newspaper in the central city of Danang.

In his public statement, attorney Hai said police seized some documents that are irrelevant to the case, including documents related to the case of Mr. Nhat.

This is also not the first time attorney Hai has been accused of unlawful non-political conduct. In November 2015, the lawyer was briefly “summoned” (or “kidnapped” in his words) by local police to explain accusations of fraudulent appropriation. Hai was released without charge later the same day.

Hai is a member of Hanoi Bar Association. He is known as an outspoken critic of local and central governments in Vietnam. Besides his online posts, Hai has been actively protected political activists, including the high-profile case of Cu Huy Ha Vu in 2011. He is also acting on behalf of Thu Thiem’s residents in a national high-profile case concerning wrongful eviction in Ho Chi Minh City.

Vietnam’s authorities have charged a number human rights defenders, dissidents and social activists with tax evasion or other allegations in trumped-up cases in order to silence them. The victims include human rights attorney Le Quoc Quan, legal expert Cu Huy Ha Vu and independent blogger Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay).

More about Mr. Tran Vu Hai:

Related article: RFA Blogger Truong Duy Nhat’s Case File Seized in Police Raid on Lawyer

===== July 6 =====

Many Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience Conduct Hunger Strike to Protest Maltreatment

Defend the Defenders: Many prisoners of conscience are conducting hunger strikes in a number of prison camps to protest inhumane treatment.

In Prison camp No. 6 in Thanh Chuong district, Nghe An province, a group of activists including Mr. Truong Minh Duc, Mr. Dao Quang Thuc, Mr. Nguyen Van Tuc and Mr. Tran Phi Dung are stopping eating from June 10 after the prison’s authorities removed all fans in their cells amid the extreme hot weather in the central region. The temperatures outside often are over 40 Celsius degrees while the temperature insides cells are often about 45 Celsius degrees.

All of them are suffering a number of severe diseases due to their age and severe living conditions. All of them were convicted of subversion and sentenced to between 12 and 17 years in jail.

According to their relatives who conducted prison visits recently, their health is under critical conditions.

In Prison camp No. 5 in Yen Dinh district, Thanh Hoa province, prisons, former spokesman Nguyen Trung Truc of the unregistered organization Brotherhood for Democracy started his fasting on June 18 while Mr. Nguyen Van Dien stopped eating from July 1. They are also conducting hunger strike to protest inhumane treatment of the prison.

Many independent organizations, including Defend the Defenders, and nearly 1,000 individuals have signed in a joint letter to condemn the maltreatment against prisoners of conscience in the prisons across the nation. They urged the communist government to improve living conditions for prisons in general and prisoners of conscience in particularly.

===== 07/7 =====

Former PoC Nguyen Xuan Nghia Warned of Not Participating in Presenting Paintings to US Embassy

Defend the Defenders:Athorities in the northern port city of Hai Phong are giving a warn to local former prisoner of conscience Nguyen Xuan Nghia, requesting him not to go to participate in a cultural event scheduled on July 8.

According to the writer, his friend artist Pham Xuan Truong will present his two paintings to the US Embassy in Vietnam on Monday and the event will be held in the city’s Office of the Cultural Association.

On Saturday, some police officers came to Mr. Nghia’s residence and told him to stay at home on Monday, otherwise he will meet problems with police, Nghia told Defend the Defenders.

Mr. Truong will present two paintings, one is a summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi several months ago, and the second is a portrait of late Senator John McCain, who was a war prisoner held for years in Hoa Lo prison in the capital city of Hanoi during the Vietnam War.

 Mr. Nghia is a member of pro-democracy group named Block 8406. He was arrested in 2009 and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s Penal Code. Later, he was sentenced to six years in prison and three years under house arrest.

Until now, he is still under close surveillance of the local police.