Appeal Court for Human Rights Defender Tran Thi Nga Set on Dec 22

Activist Tran Thi Nga in the trial on July 25, 2017

By Defend the Defenders, December 7,

Well-known human rights defender Tran Thi Nga will have her appeal hearing on December 22, five months after the first trial in which she was convicted on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code and sentenced to nine years in prison and four years under house arrest afterward.

The appeal hearing will be held by the Hanoi-based High People’s Court at the headquarters of the People’s Court in the northern province of Ha Nam, the native province of the activist, her lawyer Ha Huy Son announced.

Lawyer Son, who defended for her in the trial , will continue to provide legal assistance for Nga in the upcoming appeal hearing.

On July 25, the People’s Court of Ha Nam found that Ms. Nga, who has two kids at four and seven, guilty of conducting activities on Facebook and other social media, including writing, uploading and sharing articles and video content critical of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam and the state;

The verdict ruled that Nga produced and posted online videos that accused “the communist state of violating human rights and called for pluralism and the elimination of Article 4 of the Constitution,” which enshrines a one-party state, news reports said.

Prosecutors presented as evidence 13 videos they said Nga produced and that they claimed were in violation of the law, including films on the environmental disaster caused by the illegal discharge of toxic industrial waste of the Taiwanese Formosa steel plant in the central coastal region last year, China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea), and state corruption, especially in land grabbing cases.

After the trial in which Nga’s relatives were not allowed to attend, lawyer Son told media that the verdict was unfair and that Nga was not guilty.

Nga, an activist who blogs under the pen name “Thuy Nga,” campaigned against state abuses, including trafficking, the confiscation of land, and police brutality.

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.

Since her arrest in late January, she has been denied the family’s visit.

Her arrest and conviction are part of Vietnam’s intensifying crackdown on local activists. On June 29, Vietnam sentenced prominent human rights defender Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh to ten years in prison on the same charge and on November 30, the Danang City-based High People’s Court rejected her appeal.

On November 27, Vietnam also convicted blogger Nguyen Van Hoa, sentencing him to seven years in prison and additional three years under house arrest for his activities opposing the Taiwanese Formosa Plastic Group and reporting peaceful demonstrations of affected fishermen.

Many foreign governments such as the U.S., the UK and Germany as well as the EU, and international and domestic NGOs have criticized Vietnam for sentencing and detaining activists, calling for their immediate and unconditional release as they just exercise their rights enshrined in the country’s 2013 Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in which Vietnam is a signatory party.

In order to maintain the country under a one-party regime, Vietnam has little tolerance for government critics. It has used controversial articles such as 79, 88 and 258 in the national security provision of the Penal Code to silence local activists.

So far this year, Vietnam has arrested, sentenced, and expelled abroad 25 activists. More than ten of them were charged with subversion and face death penalty if convicted. Many other were charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 with maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Vietnam is holding around 90 prisoners of conscience, says Amnesty International while BPSOS and 14 other international and domestic human rights organizations placed the number of political prisoners as high as 165 prisoners. Hanoi always denies imprisoning any prisoner of conscience but only law violators.