Relatives of Imprisoned Activists Try to Sue Ho Chi Minh City’s Police for Illegal Holding Them Over 13 Months


Defend the Defenders, October 13, 2019


A group of relatives of five activists members of the unregistered group Hiến Pháp (Constitution) has planned to suit the Police Department of Ho Chi Minh City for illegal holding their husbands and wife, Defend the Defenders has learned.

The suit would be launched by Mrs. Huynh Thi Kim Nga- the wife of Mr. Ngo Van Dung, Ms. Doan Thi Khanh- the older sister of Ms. Doan Thi Hong, Mrs. Le Thi Khanh- the wife of Mr. Tran Thanh Phuong, Mrs. Do Thi Be- the wife of Mr. Ho Dinh Cuong, and Mr. Le Van Dinh- the husband of Mrs. Hoang Thi Thu Vang. Mr. Dung, Ms. Hong, Mr. Phuong, Mr. Cuong and Mrs. Vang were kidnapped by HCM City’s police in early September last year and have been held in the Temporary Detention facility located on Phan Dang Luu street since then.

Four of them were charged with “disruption of security” under Article 118 of the country’s 2015 Criminal Code while the charge(s) against Mr. Phuong remain(s) unclear. They face imprisonment of between seven and 15 years if are convicted, according to the current Vietnamese law.

The relatives said the police in HCM City kidnapped the five activists and took them to the detention facility without arrest warrants and timely announced their situations to their families, making their families to seek for them for weeks before finding out that they were held by HCM City police.

The activists have been held incommunicado until August when the police permitted them to meet with their relatives for the first time. However, their requests for meeting with their lawyers were rejected as the police say the imprisoned activists are not allowed to meet with their lawyers during the investigation.

Some jailed activists told their families that investigation officers have pressured on them to requested them to accept the allegations, however, the activists turned down.

The detention time is another issue. Their families have received no documents for investigation period extension while they have been held for more than 13 months.

According to Vietnam’s Criminal Procedure Code, the time limit for investigation of a criminal case is three months and four months for extremely dangerous cases and would be extended four times as maximum.

Hiến Pháp is a group of activists that aims to educate the public about the human rights entitled in Vietnam’s 2013 Constitution. 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 other members of the group fled to Thailand.

Two other members of the group, Mr. Le Van The was arrested on October 10, 2018 and sentenced to two years in prison for “abusing democratic freedom” while Mr. Huynh Truong Ca was sentenced to five years and six months after being convicted of “conducting anti-state propaganda.”

Their arrests and convictions are part of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on local dissent which started in late 2015 with the arrest of human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Ms. Le Thu Ha.