Second Vietnam Human Rights Defender Sentenced with Heavy Sentence within One Month amid Increasing Crackdown

Imprisoned human rights activist Tran Thi Nga

By Defend the Defenders, July 25, 2017

On July 25, the People’s Court in Vietnam’s northern province of Ha Nam sentenced human rights defender Tran Thi Nga to nine years in prison and additional five years under house arrest on charge of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.

The sentence was based mainly on numerous video clips in which she condemned human rights violations conducted by Vietnam’s authorities and criticized state officials for systemic corruption, land grabbing, economic mismanagement and weak response to China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea).

None of Ms. Nga’s relatives were allowed to attend the open court which is closed for independent reporters and foreign journalists while representatives of many foreign embassies were denied to have access to the trial. Many activists came to the province to support her but they were kept away from the court building.

Local authorities deployed a large number of police officers, mobile police, plainclothes agents and militia to the court areas. They beat a number of activists including Trinh Dinh Hoa, Nguyen Tuan Nghia, and Hoang Lan (see video:

Ms. Nga, a mother of four children, two of them are seven and four years old, was arrested on January 21. She was kept incommunicado until recently when she was permitted to meet with her lawyers to prepare for her defense. She has not been allowed to meet with her kids since being detained while her partner can only send some supplements for her monthly.

Ms. Nga was a migrant worker in Taiwan. While working there, she assisted Vietnamese workers to demand Vietnamese brokers to take responsibility to ensure the rights of migrant workers.

Upon her return to Vietnam, about ten years ago, she has assisted land petitioners who lost their land due to illegal seizure from local authorities.

She also participated in many anti-China demonstrations in Hanoi from 2011 to 2016 to protest China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea), as well as in peaceful gatherings to demand multi-party democracy.

Due to her activities, Vietnam’s communist government, particularly authorities in Ha Nam province have constantly harassed and persecuted her and her two children. She was detained many times and was placed under de facto house arrest for most of the last two years.

In May 2014, she was attacked by plainclothes agents in Hanoi who broke her right leg and caused a number of severe injuries to her body.

Police in Ha Nam also targeted her kids, throwing dirty sauce containing decaying shrimp at them. Her private residence in Phu Ly city was attacked with paint and dirty substances many times.

Ms. Nga is among six distinguished women human rights activists in Southeast Asia the London-based NGO Amnesty International recognized their works on the occasion of International Women’s Day (March 8) this year. Nga, Sirikan Charoensiri from Thailand, Maria Chin Abdullah from Malaysia, Tep Vanny from Cambodia, Leila de Lima from Philippines and Wai Wai Nuwho from Myanmar have faced harassment, threats, imprisonment, and violence for standing up for human rights in the region.

Since her arrest and prior to her trial, many foreign governments and a number of international human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders called on Vietnam’s communist government to immediately and unconditionally release her and other activists who have been imprisoned just because of exercising the right of freedom of expression which is enshrined in the country’s 2013 Constitution.

The arrest and sentence of Nga are part of Vietnam’s intensified crackdown against local dissidents, human rights advocates, social activists and bloggers. She is the second rights campaigner having sentenced to lengthy imprisonment. In late June, Vietnam also sentenced prominent human rights defender Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh to ten years on charges of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code.

Since the beginning of 2016 when the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam elected the country’s new leadership, Vietnam has arrested and sentenced dozens of activists, including Luu Van Vinh, Hoang Duc Binh, Can Thi Theu, Nguyen Van Oai, Nguyen Van Hoa. Vietnam detained prominent human rights attorney Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Le Thu Ha in late 2015 and still hold them for investigation on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda.”

On July 24, Vietnam arrested activist Le Dinh Luong and will prosecute him for “Carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the Penal Code.

More than 100 Vietnamese activities are imprisoned in the country, according to international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Vietnam always denies of holding any prisoners of conscience but only law violators.