Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly December 25-31, 2017: Hanoi Continues Crackdown, Imprisoning Nine Activists for Disseminating Anti-government Leaflets

Defend the Defenders | December 31, 2017

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Vietnam’s communist government has continued its most severe crackdown for many years on local dissent, imprisoning nine activists on allegation of subversion and anti-state propaganda, particularly for disseminating anti-government leaflets.

On December 27, the People’s Court in the central province of Binh Dinh convicted the group, sentencing four of them with heavy imprisonment of between 12 and 14 years in prison and five others with jail term of between three and six years.

Three days earlier, authorities in Dong Nai province detained former prisoner of conscience Protestant pastor Doan Van Dien, the father of ex-political prisoner Doan Huy Chuong. Police have yet to hand over the arrest warrant to the family.

Vietnam’s authorities concluded the investigation against prominent human rights attorney Nguyen Van Dai and five other key members of the Brotherhood for Democracy on allegation of subversion. The detainees were allowed to send their letters to their family, the first communication between them and their relatives after long detention.

Mrs. Vu Minh Khanh, the wife of Mrs. Dai, told Defend the Defenders that authorities are using tricks to halt defense preparation of her husband by delaying sending his letter to her. She also said authorities are planning to appoint a lawyer for him although she already applied to hire three lawyers for him.

Human rights defender Tran Thi Nga, who lost appeal to challenge her imprisonment of nine years in jail and five years under probation on December 22 on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda,” was permitted to meet with her husband and two kids for the first time since being detained in late February.

Pro-democracy activist Luu Van Vinh has been under torture while being held in Chi Hoa detention facility in Ho Chi Minh City. He told his wife at a recent meeting that an inmate continuously insult him and threatens to beat him to death. He complained to the prison’s authorities about the torture, however, he got no response.

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===== December 24 =====

Former Prisoner of Conscience Re-arrested for Unknown Charge

Defend the Defenders: On December 24, authorities in Vietnam’s southern province of Dong Nao arrested former prisoner of conscience Doan Van Dien, father of ex-political prisoner Doan Huy Chuong, the family told Defend the Defenders.

Mr. Dien was arrested in his private residence in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong, the family said.

Accordingly, police gave an oral notice to the family, saying he is held in the Dong Nai province-based B5 detention facility without informing the cause of the arrest.

Without providing the written arrest order, police asked the family to provide supplements for him while he is in custody. However, when the family brought some supplements for him, they rejected to hand them over to him.

Chuong said his father’s detention aims to force him to go out so they can arrest him.

Mr. Dien is a former prisoner of conscience. He and his son Chuong were arrested in November 2006 and later he was sentenced to four years and six months in prison on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code while his son was given one and half years of prison sentence.

Chuong, who was re-arrested in 2010 on charge of “disrupting security and order against the people’s administration” under Article 89 of the Penal Code and later sentenced to seven years in jail, is also facing arrest threat as security forces are reportedly to seek for him.

Chuong is a labor activist, member of the unsanctioned Viet Labor Movement which has sought to help workers fight for better working conditions and higher salary. Ms. Do Thi Minh Hanh, the president of the movement, has been a subject of constant persecution of the government.

The detention of Mr. Dien is part of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on local political dissidents, human rights defenders, social activists and online bloggers. In order to maintain the country under a one-party regime amid increasing social dissatisfaction, the communist government has launched the most severe suppression against local activists.

So far, Vietnam has arrested, tried or expelled abroad over 30 activists. Many of them have been charged with severe accusations such as subversion under Article 79 or “anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code.

===== December 25 =====

Pro-democracy Activist Luu Van Vinh Threatened with Death in Custody

Defend the Defenders: Mr. Luu Van Vinh, who is in pre-trial detention on allegation of subversion, said he has been threatened by an inmate in the Chi Hoa temporary detention facility in Ho Chi Minh City.

At a recent meeting with his wife, Mr. Vinh, who was arrested in June last year and charged with “Carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code, said he is held together with the inmate who continuously threatens to beat him to death.

Mr. Vinh informed the prison guards about his situation and asked to be placed to another cell but they refused, his wife told Defend the Defenders.

Due to his worsening vision capacity, he asked his wife to provide him with a pair of glass, however, the prison authorities deny it, not allowing her to send glasses to him, she said.

Recently, police in HCM City said they completed the investigation of his case and handed the investigation results over to the city’s People’s Procuracy, advising it to prosecute him on allegation of subversion. Vinh and his friend Nguyen Van Duc Do face life imprisonment even death penalty if convicted, according to the current law.

At a recent meeting with their lawyers, both Vinh and Do claimed that they are innocent. While Do claimed that he has no political engagement, Vinh said he just exercised his right of freedom of expression enshrined in the country’s 2013 Constitution and had carried out no activities against the communist regime.

For more information about the case of the two activists, please go to our older news: https://vietnamhumanrightsdefenders.net/core_20150131-130242/core_20150131-130230/category/luu-van-vinh/

===== December 26 =====

Vietnamese Activist Barred from Leaving to US for Family Reunification 

Defend the Defenders: On December 26, security forces in the Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City blocked human rights activist Vu Sy Hoang from travelling to the US where he would reunite with his family.

Mr. Hoang was stopped by security officers at the border gate. His passport was also confiscated by them.

Police explained that he is on the travel ban list issued by the Immigration under the Ministry of Public Security.

Mr. Hoang, who has participated in a number of peaceful demonstrations to protest human rights violations, China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea) and other issues.

Hoang, whose parents are residing in the US, has been harassed by Vietnam’s security forces in recent years due to his social activists.

Hoang is among over 100 activists barred of leaving country due to their political and social engagement.

Last month, security forces in Tan Son Nhat International Airport also stopped two outspoken Catholic priests from going abroad.

===== December 27 =====

Nine Activists Jailed with Total 83 Years in Prison for Disseminating Anti-state Leaflets

Defend the Defenders: On December 27, the People’s Court in Vietnam’s central province of Binh Dinh convicted nine activists who disseminated anti-state leaflets on allegation of subversion and anti-state propaganda, according to state media.

Ta Tan Loc, 42, Nguyen Quang Thanh, 34, Nguyen Van Nghia, 39, and Nguyen Van Tuan, 33, were accused of “Carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code while Pham Long Dai, 21, Doan Thi Bich Thuy, 45, Truong Thi Thu Hang, 33, and Tran Thi Bich Ngoc, 23, were alleged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the law.

According to the court’s indictments, the group connected with foreign-based organizations and printed anti-state leaflets and disseminated them in An Nhon town, Tuy Phuoc district and Quy Nhon city on February 16.

The court gave total 83 years of prison for the group. Particularly, Thanh and Loc were sentenced to 14 years each, Dat was given with 13 years while the remaining were sentenced to between three and 12 years. The first three were given additional three years under house arrest each afterward.

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Vietnam Jailed Human Rights Activist Tran Thi Nga Allowed to Meet with Her Kids after 11 Months in Custody 

Defend the Defenders: Jailed Vietnamese human rights defender Tran Thi Nga has been permitted to meet with her kids for the first time since her arrest in late February and conviction in July.

On December 27, Nga was allowed to meet with his kid Tai, 5 and Phu, 7 at the detention facility in Ha Nam province. However, she and her kids were still divided by a window glass in two diferent rooms and under presence of two police officers.

Ms. Nga 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 five years under house arrest afterward by the People’s Court in Ha Nam province in late July.

On December 22, the Higher Court in Hanoi rejected her appeal, upholding the sentence given by the lower court.

Nga was not permitted to meet with her family and kids after the investigation and even after the trial as authorities in Ha Nam said the denial was based on her “bad behaviors” as she rejected the court’s decision and refused to confess “wrongdoings.”

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 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 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, 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 conviction of Nga are part of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on local dissidents, human rights defenders, social activists and online bloggers.

So far this year, Vietnam has arrested, tried and expelled abroad over 30 activists. Ten of them have been charged with subversion under Article 79 of the Penal Code and face capital punishment, many others are charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda with imprisonment up to 20 years.

On November 30, Vietnam upheld the 10-year sentence of prominent human rights campaigner Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, who is well-known blogger with a penname Mother Mushroom. Two weeks earlier, the communist government also convicted blogger Nguyen Van Hoa and sentenced him to seven years in prison and three years under house arrest. Like Nga, the two activists were also convicted of “conducting anti-state propaganda,” one of many controversial articles of the national security provisions in the Penal Code the communist government is using to silence local activists.

===== December 28 =====

Vietnam Ends Investigation of Subversion against Key Members of Brotherhood for Democracy

Defend the Defenders: The Investigation Agency under Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security has ended its investigation of subversion against key members of the Brotherhood for Democracy.

The agency has handed over the case to the Supreme People’s Procuracy and advised it to prosecute prominent human rights attorney Nguyen Van Dai and his fellows Ms. Le Thu Ha, Protestant pastor Nguyen Trung Ton, engineer Pham Van Troi, lawyer Nguyen Bac Truyen and independent journalist Truong Minh Duc.

Mr. Dai and Ms. Le Thu Ha were arrested on December 16, 2015 with an initial charge of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code and latter added with “Carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the code. The three remaining activists were detained on July 30 on allegation of subversion.

The investigation was completed on December 12, police informed the families of the detainees.

If convicted, the activists are facing life imprisonment or even capital punishment, according to the current law.

Mrs. Vu Minh Khanh, the wife of Mr. Dai, told the Defend the Defenders said Vietnam’s authorities rejected his desire to have his own lawyer but appoint a lawyer for him.

It is expected their lawyers will meet the detainees soon to prepare for their defense.

The Brotherhood for Democracy is the main target of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown this year. Authorities also detained its Spokesman Nguyen Trung Truc and Nguyen Van Tuc as well as former member Tran Thi Xuan in August-September with the same charge of subversion. However, Mr. Truc, Mr. Tuc and Ms. Xuan will be likely to be tried in other cases.

While Xuan is detained for the first time, all other detainees are former prisoners of conscience, serving years in prison on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda.”

So far this year, Vietnam has arrested and tried over 30 activists, using controversial articles in the national security provisions of the Penal Code.

Vietnam has also expelled two pro-democracy activists Pham Minh Hoang and Dang Xuan Dieu to France.

On December 26-27, the People’s Court in Ho Chi Minh City convicted 15 individuals on allegation of terrorism and subversion, sentencing them to between six years and 16 years in prison with total 129 years in jail. The defendants were accused of conducting fuel bombing plot in Tan Son Nhat International Airport in HCM City in late April.

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Vietnam Authorities Use Tricks to Prevent Defense Preparation of Imprisoned Prominent Human Rights Attorney Nguyen Van Dai

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s authorities are using tricks to affect the defense preparation of prominent human rights attorney Nguyen Van Dai, who is prosecuted on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 and “Carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code, his wife Vu Minh Khanh told Defend the Defenders.

In his letter to her dated on December 12, Mr. Dai informed Mrs. Khanh that the investigation against him and five other members of the Brotherhood for Democracy ended on the same day. However, the letter arrived to her on December 28. According to the post stamp on the letter, it was sent to post on December 27, 15 days after he wrote it.

This is the trick of Vietnam’s authorities in order to prevent him from meeting early with his lawyers, Khanh affirmed.

Several hours after receiving his letter, Khanh received a call from a man who introduced himself as a lawyer from a law company in Hanoi. The man said he was appointed by authorities to be a lawyer of her husband since Dai has no lawyers.

Mrs. Khanh got confused, saying she has already submitted a letter asking authorities to allow three lawyers Ha Huy Son, Nguyen Van Mieng and Doan Thai Duyen Hai to assist her husband in defense preparation in the case.

The man said these lawyers are allowed to protect Mr. Dai on allegation of anti-state propaganda but not subversion which was added to him on July 30.

Mrs. Khanh told Defend the Defenders that she has to submit a request for the permission to allow the three lawyers again. It will take weeks for that while Vietnam is likely to try Mr. Dai and five other members of the Brotherhood for Democracy soon.

This is not the new trick from authorities, Khanh said, recalling her husband’s case in 2007 when he was arrested and convicted on allegation of anti-state propaganda. She said in that case, authorities also delayed a notice to the family in order to shorten the time needed for his lawyers to meet him for defense preparation.

Mr. Dai together with his assistant Ms. Le Thu Ha was arrested on December 16, 2015 on charge of conducting anti-state propaganda. Holding the duo in more than 19 months without trying, authorities added them with subversion allegation on July 30 this year when they arrested Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Van Troi, Truong Minh Duc and Nguyen Bac Truyen on the same charge. The first three are key members of the Brotherhood for Democracy while the last is the online organization’s co-founder but left it years ago.

The detainees have been held incommunicado since July 30 while Mr. Dai was permitted to meet with his wife three times in 2016.

Several days earlier, the detainees were allowed to write letters to their families after the investigation ended, the first communication between them and their relatives since being held.

The Police Investigation Agency has handed over the investigation results to the Supreme People’s Court, advising it to prosecute the six activists with allegation of subversion. It is expected the trial against them to be held in coming months.

Vietnam’s communist regime has little tolerance to critics amid growing social dissatisfaction triggered by systemic corruption, human rights violations, bad economic management and environmental pollution. In order to maintain the country under a one-party regime, the communist government has launched the most severe crackdown for many years on local political dissidents, human rights advocates, social activists and online bloggers.

Since the beginning of this year, Vietnam has detained more than 40 activists and charged them with severe allegations in national security provisions of the Penal Code. Hanoi has convicted 20 activists, imprisoning them with hard sentences of between three and 16 years in jail.

Many democratic governments and international and domestic rights groups have criticized Vietnam’s ongoing persecution, demanding Vietnam to end the crackdown and release all prisoners of conscience.

According to the US-based organization BPSOS, and Defend the Defenders and 13 other rights groups, Vietnam is holding 165 prisoners of conscience until November while Human Rights Watch said Hanoi is imprisoning over 100 of political prisoners.

Vietnam always denies of holding prisoners of conscience but only law violators.

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