Vietnam Human Rights Defenders Weekly’s Report for May 24-30, 2021: Blogger Pham Thanh Permitted to Meet Lawyer After One Year in Jail
Defend the Defenders | May 30, 2021
Political blogger Pham Chi Thanh (aka Pham Thanh), who is under pre-trial detention in Temporary Detention Center No. 1 under authority of the Hanoi Police Department, has been allowed to meet his lawyer for the first time since his arrest on May 21 last year to prepare for his defense. The Hanoi Police Department had completed the investigation in his case and the capital city’s authorities will bring him to a court soon to try him on the allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code, with potential imprisonment of between seven and 12 years, even 20 years in prison if is convicted.
Hanoi-based lawyer Ha Huy Son told Defend the Defenders that he met his client in police custody on May 28. Son said the 69-year-old blogger is healthy and fit for working on his case while a few days before his family said he reportedly fell on the cell’s floor and received a serious injury on his head that he was taken to a hospital for surgery.
Thanh has a political blog named Bà Đầm Xoè and publicized a number of books most of which criticize the communist regime and its leader, including late President Ho Chi Minh, the founder of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam, and incumbent party chief Nguyen Phu Trong.
During last week, security officers of the Hanoi Police Department went to the private residence of Ha Dong district-based blogger Le Van Dung (aka Le Dung Vova) to arrest him, however, the 51-year-old blogger was not at home and police officers confiscated his wife’s laptop and two cell phones. According to Mrs. Bui Thi Hue, the mother of two kids, her husband was charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” for his online posts and livestreams as CHTV channel in which he raised the country’s issues and injustice across the nation.
In previous months, he was summoned to police stations many times for interrogation about his posts on Facebook and Youtube. Currently, Mr. Dung is temporarily safe and the Hanoi police have not issued an arrest warrant for him.
A few days prior to the election day (May 23) for the country’s highest legislative body National Assembly and local People’s Councils, authorities in the northern province of Vinh Phuc arrested a local resident named Tran Ngoc Son (Facebooker Tran Giam) on the allegation of “abusing democratic freedom” for his online comment about the country’s election. With this arrest, the number of the prisoners of conscience rose to 262, according to Defend the Defenders’ statistics.
===== May 25 =====
Blogger Le Van Dung Wasn’t at Home when Hanoi Police Come to Arrest Him, His Wife Says He Is Still Safe
Defend the Defender: Hanoi-based blogger Le Van Dung (aka Le Dung Vova), a member of the online independent CHTV news channel, was not at home when officers from the Hanoi Police Department’s Investigation Agency arrived at around 1:30 p.m. on May 25, said his family.
His wife Bui Thi Hue told Defend the Defenders that around 20 officers came to their house in Ha Dong district and read the arrest order under which he was charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code with potential imprisonment of between seven and 12 years, even 20 years in prison if convicted. However, the blogger was not at home and he is temporarily safe, the mother of two kids said.
However, the police officers confiscated her laptop and cell phones, she added.
It is expected the Hanoi Police Department will issue arrest warrant soon.
CHTV channel is an independent channel established by political dissident Vu Quang Thuan who was convicted of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code 1999. Dung and other members of CHTV channel have used Facebook’s live-broadcast feature to transmit information on social issues such as land disputes and corruption, and to give ordinary citizens a chance to discuss matters of concern, drawing the attention of law enforcement and security agencies.
He has been summoned by the Hanoi police several times for interrogation about his posts. A few months ago, they questioned about his 12 videos, however, Dung admitted that only a half of them were conducted by him on which he talked about Vietnam’s issues while others were not his original ones.
Vietnam’s authoritarian regime strictly controls the media and persecutes independent journalists and bloggers. Dozens of Facebookers and bloggers have been imprisoned while others under regular harassment. The country has been placed in the groups of the countries in the bottom of the Press Freedom Index of the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) for many years. In 2020, it was ranked 175th among 180 countries in the index.
===== May 28 =====
Prisoner of Conscience, Political Blogger Pham Thanh Allowed to Meet Lawyer to Prepare for Defense
Defend the Defenders: Prisoner of conscience and political blogger Pham Chi Thanh (aka Pham Thanh) has been permitted to meet his lawyer Ha Huy Son for the first time since his arrest in late May last year to prepare for his defense, Defend the Defenders has learned.
Lawyer Son told Defend the Defenders that he met Mr. Thanh on May 28 in the Temporary Detention Center No. 1 under the authority of the Hanoi Police Department to work on his case. The investigation has been completed and the 69-year-old activist may be brought to court soon on charge of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code with potential imprisonment of between seven and 12 years, even 20 years in prison if convicted.
Son said his client’s health is good and fit for working for his defense.
However, according to his family, Thanh is not good after falling to a cement ground and had been under medical treatment for an injury in his head.
Mr. Thanh is a retired reporter and editor of the state-controlled Voice of Vietnam Radio (VOV). He has written a number of books critical of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam and its leaders, including late President Ho Chi Minh and incumbent General Secretary cum President Nguyen Phu Trong. His posts on his blog Bà Đầm Xoè are mainly critical of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam and its leader Trong. In 2019, he released a book titled Thế thiên hành đạo hay Đại nghịch bất đạo (Holder of Mandate of Heaven or Great Immoral Traitor) and its main character is the incumbent party chief.
On his blog Bà Đầm Xoè he posted his writings on politics and social issues, including China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea) and the weak response of the Vietnamese Communist regime, systemic corruption, widespread environmental pollution, human rights violations, etc.
His arrest on May 21 last year is part of Vietnam’s intensified crackdown on local dissent before and after the 13th National Congress of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam.
So far this year, Vietnam’s communist regime has arrested 12 activists and sentenced 14 activists to between two years and 15 years in prison.
According to Amnesty International, Vietnam is the largest jailer of prisoners of conscience with 170 activists being jailed while the latest statistics of Defend the Defenders shows that Hanoi is holding at least 262 prisoners of conscience. Reporters Without Borders regularly ranks Vietnam among the worst five countries on press freedom and the jailing of bloggers in particular. Vietnam’s communist government always denies it has any prisoners of conscience, saying it imprisons only law violators.
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