Trial of Former Prisoner of Conscience Vu Van Hung Set on April 12

Former prisoner of conscience Vu Van Hung

Defend the Defenders, March 31, 2018

Authorities in Hanoi have a plan to hold the first-instance hearing of former prisoner of conscience Vu Van Hung on allegation of “Intentionally inflicting injury on or causing harm to the health of other persons,” the allegation under Article 134 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code on April 12, said his wife Ly Thi Mai.

Mrs. Mai told Defend the Defenders that she had received a call from the People’s Court of Hanoi in which a representative of the court informed her about its plan.

However, the trial may not be conducted on that day as his lawyer Ngo Anh Tuan will be arranged with defense of another activist, also former prisoner of conscience Nguyen Viet Dung whose first-instance will be on the same day.

According to the current law, people accused of “inflicting injury” may face imprisonment of between six months to 12 years in prison.

Mr. Hung, a former secondary school teacher, was arrested on January 4 after participating in a meeting of the unsanctioned Chu Van An Teachers Association in a restaurant in Thanh Xuan Bac ward, Thanh Xuan district.

Initially, Mr. Hung was alleged with “causing public disorders” under Article 318 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code. Several days later, Hanoi’s authorities changed the charge against him to “Intentionally inflicting injury” without unveiling information about whom he inflicted injury and what the level of his victim’s injury.

At a meeting with his lawyer after several days being in police custody, Hung said when the meeting with other activists on January 4 ended, he went back to his private residence in Ha Dong district by bus. Two plainclothes agents followed him and they provoked him near his house.

The agents attacked him and with the support of local police, they detained him to the police station of Thanh Xuan Bac ward, Thanh Xuan district, Hung told his lawyer. Later, he was taken to the temporary detention facility of the Thanh Xuan district police.

Hung’s allegation is false, and his arrest is related to his human rights activities as Vietnam’s security forces often detain or kidnap targeted activists in trumped-up cases and later charge them with criminal allegations.

As a member of the Brotherhood for Democracy, Mr. Hung has been targeted for long time ago. He was summoned by Hanoi police for interrogation about his membership in the pro-democracy group after authorities in the capital city detained its nine key members on allegation of subversion.

Brotherhood for Democracy is one of main targets of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on local dissent, the most severe campaign for many years.

Last year, Vietnam arrested key members of the online organization, including Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Van Troi, Nguyen Van Tuc, Truong Minh Duc, and Nguyen Trung Truc. The founder Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Ms. Le Thu Ha were arrested in late 2015. They were charged with subversion under Article 79 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code and face life imprisonment or even death punishment if convicted, according to the current law.

Vietnam’s communist government planned to try Nguyen Van Dai, Pham Van Troi, Nguyen Trung Ton, Nguyen Bac Truyen, Truong Minh Duc and Le Thu Ha on April 5-6.

Mr. Hung is a former political prisoner. In 2008, he was arrested for hanging banners calling for multi-party democracy and later convicted with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code. He was sentenced to three years in jail and three years under house arrest. He was forced to abandon his job as a physic teacher.

After being released in 2011, Hung has actively participated in peaceful demonstrations and meetings on social issues, including the environmental disaster caused by the toxic industrial waste discharge of the Taiwanese Formosa steel plant in the central coastal region in 2016 which caused massive death of marine there.

The Communist Party of Vietnam has ruled the country for decades and strives to maintain the nation under a one-party regime.

Since the 12th National Congress of the party in February 2016 with appointments of many police officers to senior positions of the party and state apparatuses, Vietnam has launched severe campaign to suppress local political dissidents, human rights defenders, social activists and online bloggers.

The peak of the crackdown was 2017 with arrests of at least 45 activists on allegations under controversial articles 79 and 88 of the 1999 Penal Code. The communist government convicted 19 activists, sentencing them to between three and 16 years in prisons. In addition, Vietnam also expelled two pro-democracy activists to France.

In February, Vietnam convicted four activists Hoang Duc Binh, Vu Quang Thuan, Nguyen Van Dien and Tran Hoang Phuc and sentenced them to between six and 14 years in prison.

Many foreign governments including the US and Germany and the EU as well as international human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have condemned Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on local activists, asking Hanoi to drop all charges against them and release all prisoners of conscience, whose number is between 120 and 168.