Jail Sentences for Vietnamese American and Two Local Political Dissidents Upheld in Separate Appeal Hearings

Pro-democracy activist Nguyen Nang Tinh

Defend the Defenders, November 7, 2019


In two separate appeal hearings on November 6-7, the Higher People’s Court in Ho Chi Minh City upheld the jail sentences for Vietnamese American Michael Minh Phuong Nguyen and two local political activists named Nguyen Ngoc Anh and Huynh Duc Thinh, sending them back to prison, Defend the Defenders has learned.

On the appeal hearing on November 6, the court rejected the appeals of Mr. Michael Minh Phuong Nguyen who was sentenced to 12 years in jail on the allegation of subversion and Mr. Huynh Duc Thinh, who was given one year in prison on the allegation of misprision by the People’s Court of HCM City on June 24 this year. Meanwhile, on November 7, the same court denied the appeal of Mr. Nguyen Ngoc Anh who was sentenced to six years in prison and five years of probation by the People’s Court of Ben Tre province in the first-instance hearing on June 6.

In both appeal hearings, the judges reportedly said the final decisions were based on lack of new evidence proving the defendants’ defense. Both hearings lasted just a few hours in the mornings of Tuesday and Wednesday, observers said.

Mr. Michael Minh Phuong Nguyen visited his home country in late June and went to the central regions together with young activists Huynh Duc Thanh Binh and Tran Long Phi who participated in the mass demonstrations in HCM City on June 6, 2018 in which tens of thousands of residents rallied on streets to protest two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security. The trio was arrested and charged with subversion upon their return to HCM City on July 7 while Mr. Huynh Duc Thinh, a former political prisoner, and father of Mr. Huynh Duc Thanh Binh, was detained one day later.

Huynh Duc Thanh Binh and Tran Long Phi, who were given ten and eight years in jail by the trial on June 24, respectively, did not appeal for their sentences.

Observers said in the appeal hearing on November 6, relatives of Mr. Michael Minh Phuong Nguyen and Mr. Huynh Duc Thinh were not permitted to enter the courtroom. There were a number of the diplomats from the US’s Embassy in Hanoi and General Consulate in HCM City attended the hearing.

Mr. Nguyen Ngoc Anh, 39, is a shrimp grower in Binh Dai district, Ben Tre province. He was arrested on August 30 last year. He was accused of posting numerous articles and live streams on his Facebook account Nguyễn Ngọc Ánh in which he speaks out about human rights violations, systemic environmental pollution, bad economic management of Vietnam’s communist government, China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea) and Vietnam’s weak response.

In late September, he was beaten by a criminal inmate who was likely acting on behalf of the authorities of Ben Tre province. Due to the assault, Mr. Anh suffered serious injuries in his right leg, left arm and head, and he feels difficulty in moving. Later, he was placed in an isolated cell where he has no support from other prisoners but serves himself.

Two days prior to his appeal, Human Rights Watch issued a press release calling on Vietnam’s communist regime to immediately and unconditionally release him because he has conducted no crime but exercised his right of freedom of expression on Facebook.

Facing increasing social dissatisfaction, Vietnam’s communist regime has intensified its crackdown on human rights defenders, political dissidents, social activists, and Facebookers in order to keep their political monopoly. So far this year, the regime has arrested at least 28 activists and sentenced 27 to a total 115.5 years in prison and 20 years of probation.

The regime has a plan to try seven others in the coming days and its victims are human rights lawyer Tran Vu Hai and his wife on allegation of tax evasion, pro-democracy activist Nguyen Nang Tinh on accusation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” and four individuals named Vo Thuong Trung, Doan Viet Hoan, Nguyen Dinh Khue and Ngo Xuan Thanh who were charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” for their plan to participate in peaceful demonstration in late April this year when the country marked the fall of the US-backed Saigon regime.

On November 5, authorities in the northern province of Hoa Binh arrested local resident named Nguyen Van Nghiem on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” for his online postings and live streams on Facebook which were considered harmful for the regime.

Vietnam is holding at least 237 prisoners of conscience in critical conditions, according to Defend the Defenders’ statistics. Hanoi always denies holding prisoners of conscience, saying it imprisons only law violators.