Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for July 29-August 4, 2019: Seven Anti-corruption Activists Sentenced to 15.5 Years in Prison
Defend the Defenders | August 4, 2019
On July 30, the People’s Court of Que Vo district, Bac Ninh province sentenced Mr. Ha Van Nam and six other fellow ATF activists to a total of 15 years and six months in jail for the trumped-up charge of “disturbing public order” under Article 318 of the Penal Code. Particularly, Mr. Nguyen Quynh Phong was sentenced to three years; Mr. Le Van Khien and Mr. Ha Van Nam were given 30 months each; Mr. Nguyen Tuan Quan, Mr. Vu Van Ha and Mr. Ngo Quang Hung- two years while Mr. Tran Quang Hai received the lightest sentence of 18 months. The court also ruled that the convicted also had to pay VND23 million ($980) in compensation to Pha Lai BOT tollbooth operating company. Their conviction aims to silence other activists who are working against illegal collection of transport fees from interest groups.
Four prisoners of conscience named Truong Minh Duc, Nguyen Van Tuc, Dao Quang Thuc and Tran Phi Dung ended their 40-day hunger strike on July 21 after authorities in Prison camp No. 6 in Nghe An province installed electrical fans in their cells. Their health is recovering slowly.
After eight years of being imprisoned, democracy campaigner and human rights defender Nguyen Dang Minh Man was released on August 2. She is still placed under house arrest for the next five years.
Five imprisoned members of Hien Phap group were permitted to meet with their families for the first time since their detention in early September last year. Their case was completed and the trial against them may be held in coming months.
On July 30, a group of about ten thugs attacked the private residence of Hoa Hao Buddhist clergy Phong Xuan, demolishing all domestic items in the house, including TV set and other eletronic items and a motorbike. The attack aims to revenge to An’s activities which aim to exercise the right to freedom of religion.
===== July 29 =====
Four Prisoners of Conscience in Prison Camp No. 6 End Hunger Strike
Defend the Defenders: For prisoners of conscience named Nguyen Van Tuc, Tran Phi Dung, Truong Minh Duc and Dao Quang Thuc have ended their 40-day hunger strike after authorities of Prison camp No. 6 met their demand for improving imprisonment’s conditions.
According to Mrs. Bui Thi Re, the wife of Mr. Tuc, the group of fout started eating on July 21 after the prison’s authorities installed electrical fans in their cells.
In their visit to the prison on July 29, she and her son were permitted to talk with Mr. Tuc around 45 minutes. She said his health is recovering but still very weak.
Mr. Tuc told her that the prison’s authorities have yet allowed them to make phone calls to their families, and plan to resume hunger strike if they deny their right next month.
The four started to carry out their hunger strike on June 10 after the prison’s authorities removed all electrical fans in their cells amid extremely hot summer in the country’s central region, in which the temperature hits over 42 Celsius degrees in most time of a day.
Their fasting has attracted attention of other activists outside and thousands of them and dozens of independent civil society organizations have called oJ the communist government to end inhumane treatment against prisoners of conscience in all prisons in the country.
Many other prisoners of conscience in other prisons, incling Prison camp No. 5 in Thanh Hoa province and Ba Sao Prison camp in Ha Nam also stopped eating for many days to support them.
All the four were sentenced to between 12 years and 14 years in prison on charge of subversion in trumped-up cases.
They are listed as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International which said Vietnam is holding 128 prisoners of conscience.
According to Defend the Defenders’ statistics, Vietnam is holding at least 232 prisoners of conscience as of July 29.
===== July 30 =====
7 Anti-tollbooth Fraud (ATF) Activists Sentenced to 15 Years and Six Months in Jail
Defend the Defenders: On July 30, the People’s Court of Que Vo district, Bac Ninh province sentenced Mr Ha Van Nam and 6 other fellow ATF activists to a total of 15 years and six months in jail for the trumped-up charge of “disturbing public order” under Article 318 of the Penal Code.
Particularly, Mr. Nguyen Quynh Phong was sentenced to three years; Messrs Le Van Khien and Ha Van Nam were given 30 months each; Messrs Nguyen Tuan Quan,Vu Van Ha and Ngo Quang Hung- two years while Mr. Tran Quang Hai received the lightest sentence of 18 months.
The court ruled that the convicted also had to pay VND23 million ($980) in compensation to Pha Lai BOT tollbooth operating company.
Authorities in Bac Ninh deployed large numbers of police and militia including dozens of riot police to the court area at Dao Viet village hall to block the defendants’ families and friends from entering the courtroom where the supposedly open trial was held.
The activists were against tollbooths placed at wrong locations to collect tolls illegally from drivers, investors of these illegal tollbooths were backed by senior officials and local authorities who sent out the police to suppress, beat and arrest activists.
Hoa Hao Buddhist Clergy’s Private Residence Demolished by Thugs
Defend the Defenders: In the evening of July 30, a group of about ten thugs attacked the private residence of Hoa Hao Buddhist clergy Phong Xuan, demolishing all domestic items in the house, including TV set and other eletronic items and a motorbike.
After smashing all the items in his private house, they left. At that time, Xuan took bath in the back of the house and unawared about the demolition.
The reason for the attack is to revenge to An’s activities which aim to exercise the right to freedom of religion, particularly to encourage other followers of Hoa Hao Buddhist to do the same.
The communist regime is striving to control all religions in Vietnam. It has established religious sects parallel to the original ones, and force followers to follow the controlled ones. They are applying different kinds of harassment for these who continue to exercise their right to freedom of religions freely.
Vietnam is keeping more than 230 prisoners of conscience, including 100 religious prisoners, according to Defend the Defenders’ statistics.
===== 02/8 =====
Five Imprisoned Members of Hien Phap Group Allowed to Meet with Families After 11 Months of Incommunicado Detention
Defend the Defenders:Families of six imprisoned members of the unregistered group Hien Phap (Constitution) were permitted to meet with them on August 2, the first meetings since their detention in early September 2018, Defend the Defenders has learned.
The families of Mr. Ho Van Cuong, Mr. Ngo Van Dung, Mr. Tran Thanh Phuong. Ms. Doan Thi Hong and Ms. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hanh met them at the Temporary detention center located at No. 4 Phan Dang Luu street in Ho Chi Minh City, they told Defend the Defenders. There was no information about other two members of the group named Do The Hoa and Mrs. Hoang Thi Thu Vang, who are also held in the facility which is under the authority of the city’s Police Department.
The detainees are not healthy. They said they have been under mental turmoil of police officers.
Ms. Hong told her older sister that police completed their investigation three-four months ago, but she could not understand why they did not allow her to meet with her earlier. She has yet met with her small daughter who was less than three years when she was detained on September 2 last year.
Hong said police officers are trying to convince her that she should not hire lawyers and if she agrees, she may receive light sentence. However, her sister told her that she has signed a legal contract with a lawyer who will defend for her.
Authorities in HCM City are planning to hold the first-instance hearing for the group next month.
Hien Phap is a group of activists which aims to educate the public about the human rights entitled in 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 HCM City on June 10, 2018.
In early September last year, authorities in the city launched crackdown on the group, abducting its seven members. Three others members of the group fled to Thailand.
Families of the detained members were not informed about their detention. They went to different city’s police stations to ask about them for weeks until found that they were held in the city’s temporary detention center in Phan Dang Luu street.
Several months later, police informed their families that they were charged with “disrupting security” with imprisonment of between seven and 15 years if are convicted. Until now, the charge(s) against Mr. Hoa and Mr. Phuong were unknown.
It is unclear when they will be permitted to meet with their lawyers.
Anti-China Activist Released after Completing 8-year Imprisonment
Defend the Defenders: On August 2, human rights defender and anti-China protester Nguyen Dang Minh Man completed her 8-year imprisonment and returned to her family in Tra Vinh province.
She is still placed under five years of probation, and could not freely to move outside of her area.
Man, 34, is a freelance photojournalist. In 2010, she participated in the movement against China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea).
She documented police brutality, government corruption, and peaceful public protest, including the large anti-China demonstration held in Ho Chi Minh City on June 5, 2011.
On July 31, 2011, Vietnamese authorities arbitrarily detained Man along with her mother Dang Ngoc Minh and brother Nguyen Dang Vinh Phuc. Two years later, during a two-day trial of 14 Vietnamese Catholic activists in January 2013, she was sentenced to eight years in prison and five years house arrest.
She was imprisoned at Prison camp No. 5 located in Yen Dinh district, Thanh Hoa province until her release.
In the past eight years, she was subject to unfair and discriminatory treatment in prison. In November 2014, she was put in near-solitary confinement without clear reasons. Soon after, she launched repeated hunger strikes to raise awareness about ill-treatment towards prisoners of conscience, weighing 35 kg, or about 77 pounds, after her protest.
Her family must travel 40 hours to get to the prison camp, sometimes being turned away because prison guards put her in solitary confinement.
On November 28, 2013, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled in favor of activists convicted during the same time with her, stating that Vietnam violated its international human rights obligations and must immediately and unconditionally release her and 13 others which were blamed as members of the Vietnam Reform Party (Viet Tan), the California-based pro-democracy group which is labelled by the Vietnamese communist regime as a terrotist group.
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