Police of Ho Chi Minh City Propose to Prosecute Three Independent Journalists of “Conducting Anti-state Propaganda,” Trial Expected Soon
From left to right: Mr. Le Huu Minh Tuan, Mr. Nguyen Tuong Thuy, and Dr. Pham Chi Dung
Defend the Defenders, October 21, 2020
Police of Ho Chi Minh City have transferred the investigation conclusion to the city’s People’s Procuracy, proposing to prosecute three members of the unregistered professional organization Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN) named Dr. Pham Chi Dung, Mr. Nguyen Tuong Thuy and Mr. Le Huu Minh Tuan of allegation “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the country’s Criminal Code.
The information was included in a notice of the Security Investigation Agency of HCM City’s Police Department sent to Saigon-based human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng, who is hired by the families of Dr. Dung and Mr. Thuy to provide legal assistance for the duo. Dr. Dung, 54, is a co-founder and incumbent president of the organization while Mr. Thuy, 70, is its vice president.
Mr. Dung was arrested on November 21 last year while Mr. Thuy was detained on May 23 this year and Mr. Tuan, 31, was taken into police custody one month later. The trio was held incommunicado since their detention and their families have been allowed to provide additional food and basic stuff only.
It is expected authorities in HCM City will hold the first-instance hearing in the coming weeks to try them before the 13th National Congress of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam slated for January next year. They are facing imprisonment of up to 20 years in prison if they are convicted, according to the current Vietnamese law.
The arrest and prosecution of the three members of the IJAVN is a part of the Vietnamese communist regime’s ongoing crackdown on the local dissent which has been intensified since late 2015. Hundreds of activists have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted with heavy sentences under controversial articles in the National Security provisions of the Criminal Code, which the international community has called on Vietnam to remove from the code as they have been used to silence the local activists.
The IJAVN was established in 2014 to fight for freedom of the press in Vietnam where the communist regime has tight control over the official media. Thousands of articles of independent journalists covering the country’s issues such as human rights violations, systemic corruption, widespread environmental pollution, the government’s weak response to China’s violation of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea), and other socio-economic problems have been posted on the organization’s website vietnamthoibao.org. The three journalists have a number of articles criticizing the communist government for failing to properly address the country’s issues as well as giving interviews to foreign media.
Vietnam’s security forces have also harassed and intimidated other members of the IJAVN in recent years. A number of its members in Hanoi, HCM City, and other localities have been summoned for interrogation for their membership in the organization and their writing. Police have also blocked them from gathering or meeting with foreign guests or diplomats since the organization’s establishment while its website is regularly attacked and still placed under a firewall for the local readers.
Since their arrests, the international community such as Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), and the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and local activists have called on the Vietnamese regime to free the three activists immediately and unconditionally and drop the charges against them.
Ruled by communists for decades, Vietnam is listed at the bottom of the RSF’s Freedom Press Index for many years, ranked at 178th among 180 countries in 2020.
Currently, Vietnam is holding at least 260 prisoners of conscience, according to Defend the Defenders’ latest statistics. Among them, 47 bloggers and activists have been arrested or convicted of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code 1999 or Article 117 of the Criminal Code 2015.
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