Labor Activist Hoang Duc Binh to Be Prosecuted for Democracy Abuse, Heavy Sentence Expected

Mr. Hoang Duc Binh (right) and Mr. Konrad, political officer of the German Embassy in Vietnam

by Defend the Defenders, November 01, 2017

The Investigation Agency under the Nghe An province Department of Public Security has advised the local People’s Procuracy to prosecute human rights activist Hoang Duc Binh on allegation of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens” under Article 258 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.

The agency completed its investigation against Mr. Binh more than four months after his arrest on June 15, said lawyer Ha Huy Son, who will defend the activist in the upcoming trial.

Binh, vice president of the unsanctioned organization Viet Labor, will be tried for allegation under clause of Article 258, facing imprisonment of between two and seven years if convicted, according to the current Vietnamese law.

Binh, who was very active in assisting Formosa-affected people to seek proper compensation and demanding the Taiwanese firm withdraw its businesses in the country, was kidnapped on June 15. Later, Nghe An province’s police announced that they had arrested him and charged him with “Destroying or deliberately damaging property” under Article 143, “resisting persons in the performance of their official duties” under Article 257 and “abusing democratic freedoms” under Article 258 of the Penal Code.

His arrest and probe are part of efforts of the authorities in Nghe An province to silence him for his peaceful activities aimed at helping the Catholic community in the central region to seek justice in the environmental disaster caused by the illegal discharge of toxic industrial waste from the Taiwanese Formosa steel plant into the central coastal waters last year.

Binh and Bach Hong Quyen are two bloggers who have covered information about the natural disaster caused by the Taiwanese Formosa steel plant as well as local protests against the pollution-causing investor. Quyen was forced to flee to a foreign country to seek political refugee status after authorities in the central province of Ha Tinh on June 12 issued an arrest warrant for him, accusing him of “causing public disorder” for his peaceful activities.

The moves against Binh are part of the ongoing intensified crackdown against Vietnamese activists, with arrests and heavy sentences of dozens of political dissidents, human rights defenders, social activists and online bloggers since late 2015, starting with the arrest of human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Ms. Le Thu Ha.

So far this year, Vietnam has arrested, imprisoned and expelled 25 activists to foreign countries. Nine of them have been accused with serious charges of subversion under Article 79 of the Penal Code according to which they could face life imprisonment or capital punishment.

In June-September, Vietnam convicted human rights activists Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, Tran Thi Nga, Nguyen Van Oai and Phan Kim Khanh with imprisonment of between five and ten years for their peaceful activities.

Many foreign governments, international and domestic human rights organizations condemned the convictions and requested Vietnam to immediately and unconditionally release them and other prisoners of conscience as well as stop its ongoing crackdown on local activists.