Secret Trial Against Two Facebookers Huynh Anh Khoa and Nguyen Dang Thuong Suspended, New Date Rescheduled on December 21



Defend the Defenders, December 7, 2020


On December 7, authorities in Ho Chi Minh City unexpectedly carried out the secret first-instance hearing to try two Facebookers Huynh Anh Khoa and Nguyen Dang Thuong on the charge of “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the country’s Criminal Code.

However, the People’s Court of District 8 has decided to suspend the trial and reschedule it on December 21 after one of the two defendants, Mr. Thuong, requested the suspension due to his poor health.

Mrs. Pham Bao Ngoc, the wife of Mr. Khoa, told Defend the Defenders that the trial started at 8 am on Monday, however, she received a call at 8.15 am from the local police informing her about the first-instance hearing against her husband.

Mrs. Ngoc told Defend the Defenders that the two Facebookers have no lawyers who could provide legal consultation for them. She has signed a legal contract with a lawyer, however, it is likely that the police force her husband to write a letter rejecting all legal services from hired by his family lawyers.

The same situation is for Mr. Thuong, another defendant in the case.

Mr. Khoa and Mr. Thuong were arrested by security forces in HCM City on June 13 this year in relation to a group on Facebook in which its members hold discussions about Vietnam’s socio-economic issues.

Mr. Khoa was arrested outside by the police of District 8 who took him back to his private residence for house searching. His wife Ngoc said the police did not find anything but confiscated his cell phone.

According to well-known blogger Le Nguyen Huong Tra who is residing in Germany, Khoa and Thuong are admins of a Facebook group named Bàn luận Kinh tế-Chính trị (Economic-Political Discussion) with 46,000 followers. However, the group was closed immediately after the arrests of its two admins.

As the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam prepares its 13th National Congress scheduled for January 2021, the regime continues its crackdown on the local dissent and tighten control on social media, especially Facebook, the largest social network in Vietnam with around 60 million accounts.

So far this year, Vietnam has convicted five activists for their Facebook posting and imposed imprisonment of between nine months and eight years. In addition, the regime has imposed administrative fines up to VND15 million ($680) on hundreds of Facebookers nationwide for their online activities after requesting them to delete their posts.

Mr. Khoa and Mr. Thuong face imprisonment of up to seven years if they are convicted.