Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’s Weekly Report for August 6-12, 2018: HRD Huynh Thuc Vy Detained, Prosecuted for Disrespecting National Flag


Defend the Defenders| August 12, 2018

Authorities in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak have detained local human rights defender and blogger Huynh Thuc Vy, prosecuting her on allegation of disrespecting the Vietnamese national flag.

In early morning of August 9, a group of around 30 police officers came to her private residence in Buon Ho town, detaining her and blocking the area.

After taking her to the town police station, police searched her house, confiscating a number of items, including two cell phone, Ipad, a laptop and several books.

Police released her at 10 PM of the same day after issuing a decision to prosecute her on allegation of disrespecting the national flag under Article 276 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code. Accordingly, Vy, the mother of a 22-month daughter, will be placed under house arrest. Police have also placed her under international travel ban. She faces imprisonment of up to three years in prison.

Authorities in Ho Chi Minh City have officially charged young activist Huynh Duc Thanh Binh on allegation of subverion under Article 109 of the 2015 Penal Code. Binh was detained on July 7 together with his friends namely Michael Nguyen Phuong Minh, a Vietnamese American, his father Huynh Duc Thinh and Tran Long Phi. No official charges against three others were announced. Both Binh and Phi participated in the mass demonstration on June 10.

The People’s Court of Nghe An will hold the trial against pro-democracy campaigner Le Dinh Luong on August 16 after postponing it a month before. Mr. Luong, arrested in late July last year, will face life imprisonment or even capital punishment for subverion allegation.

Mr. Nguyen Trung Truc, the spokesman of the unsanctioned online group Brotherhood for Democracy, will be tried on allegation of subversion on August 17. While being held in the temporary detention facility under the authority of the Quang Binh province’s Police Department, he is inhumanely treated, according to the Free Radio Asia (RFA).

Authorities of the Bien Hoa temporary detention facility are reportedly threatening jailed protestors who were convicted on “disrupting public security” for their participation in the mass demonstration on June 10, asking them not to appeal the decisions of the town’s People’s Court in their trial on July 30. As many as 15 out of 20 protestors were sentenced to between eight and 18 months in prison.

Two months after their appeal hearing, authorities have transferred three members of the Vietnam Reviving Campaign namely Vu Quang Thuan, Nguyen Van Dien and Tran Hoang Phuc to different prison camps. Thuan, who was sentenced to eight months in prison, was transferred to Ba Sao prison camp under the authority of the Ministry of Public Security. The camp is located in Kim Bang district, Ha Nam province, about 80 km from Hanoi where his family is residing.

Mr. Dien, who was given six years and six months in prison, and four years under house arrest, was transferred to the Prison camp No. 5 located in Yen Dinh district, Thanh Hoa province, around 400 km from Yen Bai province where his family is living.

Meanwhile, Phuc, who is the president of the unsanctioned organization Vietnam Students for Human Rights and was sentenced to six years in prison, was sent to An Phuoc prison camp in Binh Duong province, about 100 km from his family in Tan Binh district, Ho Chi Minh City.

Ms. Tran Thi Thuy, who was sentenced to nine years in prison and five years under house arrest on charge of subversion in 2011, completed her jail term on August 10. Thuy, who was listed as prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, is in bad health conditions after being treated inhumanely by prisons’ authorities.

Dr. Ho Van Hai, who was sentenced to four years in prison on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code for his posts on social media, has reportedly withdrawn his appeal, accepting the court’s decision. He was arrested in 2016 and tried in 2017 and his trial was unknown for local dissents.

Meanwhile, on August 7, the Higher People’s Court in HCM City secretly held the appeal hearing of Mr. Vuong Van Tha, upholding his 12-year imprisonment sentence given by the People’s Court of An Giang province in the trial against him on January 23 this year. His family was not informed about his appeal hearing. Tha was arrested in May 2017 and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code.

===== August 6 =====

Young Activist Huynh Duc Thanh Binh Charged with Subversion

Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Ho Chi Minh City have charged young activist Huynh Duc Thanh Binh with “Activities against the people’s government” under Article 109 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code, his mother told Defend the Defenders.

Speaking with Defend the Defenders, Mrs. Nguyen Thi Hue said that on August 6, she received a written announcement from HCM City’s Police Department which says the allegation was made on July 25, 18 days after his arrest.

Police told her that her son will be kept incommunicado in the next four months for investigation, and the pre-trial detention may be extended to 16 months according to the country’s Criminal Procedure Code. Binh has been held at Phan Dang Luu 4 Temporary detention facility under the authority of the city’s Police Department.

If is convicted, Binh faces life imprisonment, even death penalty, accordign to the current Vietnamese law.

Binh, 22, was detained on July 7, together with his friends namely Michael Nguyen Minh Phuong, a US citizen, Thomas Quoc Bao and Tran Long Phi by security forces in HCM City when they returned from a tour to Hue and Danang. Bao reportedly escaped from police and now is hiding somewhere.

On the next day, police also detained Binh’s father, Mr. Huynh Duc Thinh, saying he will face allegation of covering activities of his son.

Ms. Hue said she is allowed only to supply food and other stuffs for Binh and Thinh, with whom she divorced.

It is unclear whether Vietnamese American Phuong and his Vietnamese friend Phi will be criminally charged or not.

Last week, the family of the Vietnamese American issued astatement calling on Vietnam to release him immediately and unconditionally.


Jailed Pro-democracy Campaigner Vu Van Hung Transferred to Nghe An

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s authorities have transferred jailed human rights defender and pro-democracy activist Vu Van Hung to the Prison camp No. 3 located in the central province of Nghe An’s Tan Ky district.

The transfer was made on August 6, his wife Ly Tuyet Mai told Defend the Defenders, adding the prison camp is about 300 km from her private residence in Ha Dong district, Hanoi.

Since being detained on January 4 this year, he was held in the Temporary detention facility No. 2 under the authority of the Hanoi Police Department, located in Thuong Tin district.

Mr. Hung, who spent three years in prison in 2008-2010 on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda,” was arrested in early January this year in a politically-motivated case and charged with “inflicting injuries.” Later he was sentenced to one year in prison in his trial which failed to meet international standards for fair trial.

Sending prisoners of conscience to prisons far from their familites is a common practice of the Vietnamese government in a bid to cause difficulties for their families to visit them and supply them with additional food and stuffs.

For further information on Mr. Hung, please go to our archive.

===== August 7 =====

Vietnam Prison Authorities Threaten Jailed Female Protesters Who Seek Appeal

RFA: Authorities at a prison in Vietnam’s Bien Hoa province are threatening female protesters who seek to appeal the jail sentences they were handed last month for their roles in a rare, large-scale demonstration over two controversial government policies, their lawyer said Tuesday.

The women are among a group of 20 protesters who were sentenced from eight months up to one and a half years in prison on July 30 for “disrupting public order” in the June 10 protest in southeast Vietnam’s Dong Nai province, which official media in Vietnam said had blocked roads and created traffic jams on major highways in the area.

Dang Dinh Manh, the lawyer who represented the 20 defendants in their trial last month at the Bien Hoa City People’s Court, told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that the women among the group are being ill-treated in prison.

“I was told by their families that the female defendants have faced intimidation from the prison’s authorities,” who warned them that if they want to appeal their verdict they would be subjected to sexually transmitted diseases, he said.

“I am very upset, because this is a serious violation of the law.”

Manh said that he had sent a petition to the provincial police to complain about the threats his clients had received.

He said he had also met with prison officials who told him that there was no evidence that the defendants had faced intimidation, but promised to conduct an investigation of the claims.

Nguyen Thi Kim Vui, the sister of defendants Nguyen Thi Ngoc Phuong and Nguyen Thi Truc Anh, said that during a visit with her siblings, they “cried to me, saying [the prison guards] told them that,” but acknowledged that “I don’t know if it’s true.”

Vui said her sisters suggested they “were told not to appeal,” but are planning to do so anyway.

On June 9 and 10, protests rocked major Vietnamese cities including Hanoi and Saigon, also called Ho Chi Minh City, as demonstrators challenged government plans to grant long-term leases for foreign companies operating in special economic zones (SEZs) and the adoption of a controversial cybersecurity law.

The protests prompted clashes with police that saw demonstrators beaten and an unknown number detained.

Calls for probe and release

Manh’s claims came a day after London-based rights group Amnesty International called on authorities in Vietnam to launch an independent probe into the death of a farmer who took part in the protests, amid reports that he was tortured in police custody.

A local rights group has said that Hua Hoang Anh, a 35-year-old farmer from Kien Giang province died after four police officers visited his home in Chau Thanh district on Aug. 2 to question him about his involvement in the protests, citing his wife who claims she returned from making them tea to find him “collapsed with some injuries to his neck and belly.”

While the group suggested that Anh may have died of hemorrhaging, police in Ken Giang have said the farmer committed suicide. Local authorities reportedly forced Anh’s family to bury him the following day.

The claims of intimidation in prison also follow a declaration signed over the weekend by five local civil society organizations and some 50 individuals calling on the government to immediately release the dozens of people detained and convicted in recent weeks for their part in the protests.

According to the Aug. 4 declaration, a copy of which was recently obtained by RFA, 52 people have been taken into custody by the police since the protests, including the 20 people convicted in Bien Hoa.

“We demand the government of Vietnam to immediately release all people who joined the peaceful protest against the SEZ and cybersecurity laws on June 10,” the document reads.

“Bien Hoa City should release all 20 people who were convicted in the July 30 trial and annul their sentences, return all property belonging to protesters which was confiscated by the police or court, apologize to the protesters, and compensate protesters who have been illegally detained,” it said.

The declaration also called on Vietnam’s National Assembly, a rubber-stamp parliament, to ensure that legal protections for demonstrators are upheld, according to stipulations in the country’s constitution.

Rights group Amnesty International estimates that at least 97 prisoners of conscience are currently held in Vietnam’s prisons, where many are subjected to torture or other ill-treatment.

===== August 8 =====

Vietnamese Democracy Advocate Held in Dark Cell, in Failing Health

RFA: Jailed Vietnamese democracy activist Nguyen Trung Truc, a member of the online Brotherhood for Democracy advocacy group, is suffering from failing eyesight after being held for long periods in a darkened cell, a fellow activist says.

Speaking with RFA’s Vietnamese Service on condition of anonymity, the activist—also a Brotherhood member—said that Truc’s son reported his father’s condition following a prison visit on Tuesday, adding that Truc has grown physically weaker in jail since his arrest last year.

RFA was unable to contact Truc’s family for confirmation, and Truc’s lawyer declined to comment on his client’s state of health, citing the political sensitivity of the case.

Truc, an online democracy advocate and former political prisoner, was taken from his home in handcuffs on Aug. 4, 2017 and charged under Article 79 of Vietnam’s penal code with working to overthrow the government.

Truc’s arrest followed the round-up of other members of the group, four of whom are now serving long prison terms after appeals of their sentences were turned down in June.

Nguyen Van Dai, who founded the Brotherhood in 2013 to defend human rights and democratic ideals in Vietnam and was later handed a 15-year prison term, was freed with another group member and sent into exile in Germany in June.

Speaking to RFA , Dai called Truc “the last member among nine leaders of the organization recently arrested by the government.”

Government accusations that the group has engaged in subversive activities are unfounded, Dai added.

Truc is now scheduled to stand trial on August 17, Dai said.

Abuse and ill-treatment of political prisoners is common in Vietnam, with jailed activists often subjected to harsh and degrading conditions behind bars, sources say.

New York-based Human Rights Watch has said that police brutality is systemic in Vietnam, whose Ministry of Public Security has admitted that 226 suspects and inmates died in police stations and detention facilities throughout the country between October 2010 and September 2014.

Communist Vietnam, where all media are state-controlled, does not tolerate dissent, and rights groups identify Article 79 as among a set of vague provisions that authorities have used to detain dozens of writers and bloggers.

===== August 9 =====

Well-known Female Rights Activist Huynh Thuc Vy Detained, May Face Criminal Charge

Defend the Defenders: On August 9, Vietnam’s authorities detained well-known human rights advocate and blogger Huynh Thuc Vy after she denied police’s request to go to a local police station for interrogation.

Around 30 police officers came to her private residence in Buon Ho town, Dak Lak province at 7 AM and took her away by force, said Mr. Pham Ba Hai, former prisoner of conscience and deputy director of Defend the Defenders.

Police blocked the areas, confiscating cell phones of Vy and her husband, Le Khanh Duy. They are still monitoring their house after taking her away, not allowing her husband to go out and others to come in.

Several hours after taking her to unknown direction, police came to search their house and took some items, including a laptop.

It is unclear whether Vy will be arrested for criminal charge. So far, police has not shown arrest warrant.

In recent weeks, police in Buon Ho issued four summoning letters to request her to go to a local police station for interrogation about her activities. She refused to obey by the police requests, saying their requests are not in line with Vietnam’s law.

On June 10, Vy, whose daughter is 22 months old, was pictured with the Vietnamese national flag which was tained with paint. Someone said she intentionally defamed the flag that she has never recognized.

According to local observers, Vy may face allegation of Article 351. “Desecration of national flag, national emblem, national anthem” under Article 351 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code.

Any person who deliberately desecrates the national flag, national emblem, national anthem shall face a penalty of up to three yearsin prison, according to the law.

Vy, 33, is the oldest child of former political prisoner Huynh Ngoc Tuan, who spent ten years in prison in 1992-2002 for sending his political book abroad.

She has posted a number of articles for human rights and multi-party democracy, including a book tittled “Nhận định Sự thật Tự do và Nhân quyền” (A view on Truth, Freedom and Human Rights). She also advocates for rights of ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands, often visiting families of prisoners of conscience in the region.

She is among founders of the unsanctioned organization Vietnam Women for Human Rights, and was its president before getting maternal leave.

She is banned from foreign trip as police confiscated her passport when she was on her way to attend a workshop on cyber security organized by Reporters Without Formers in Bangkok in June 2015.

She was interrogated many times in the past. In 2012, she was arrested by the police, put in a car that went for a 1,000kms. She was then interrogated continuously for 12 hours, before being dropped at a fuel station at midnight.

In May, the British Broad Corporation (BBC) listed Vy as one of five female activistswho are risking their lives to protect others’ rights. Other activists include Wang Yu from China, Maria Chin Abdullah from Malaysia, Anchana Heemina from Thailand and Phyoe Phyoe Aung from Myanmar.

Since 2013, Mr. Tuan’s family has been suppressed by police. He was brutally assailed by plainclothes agents several times and suffered a number of severe injuries.

The family of his youngest child, Huynh Trong Hieu, was forced to flee to Thailand to seek for political asylum.

Under police’s pressure, Vy and her husband Duy were forced to leave Ho Chi Minh City to Buon Ho several years ago where they are running coffee business.

Meanwhile, Mr. Hai, who is also a coordinator of the Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience, said his post about the detention of Vy on Facebook was deleted after being shared by 1,000 other Facebookers.

Thedetention of Vy is part of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on local dissent which started in late 2015 with the arrest of prominent human rights attorney Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Le Thu Ha.

Vietnam arrested more than 40 activists last year. So far this year, the communist government has detained around 50 and convicted 67 activists in 2018.

More than ten activists have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms up to 15 years, including eight key members of the online group Brotherhood for Democracy.

===== August 10 =====

HRD Huynh Thuc Vy Released but Probed for Affronting Vietnamese National Flag

Defend the Defenders: Vietnamese authorities have released well-known human rights defender Huynh Thuc Vy but probed her for “affronting the national flag” under Article 276 of the country’s Penal Code.

Vy, who was detained in the morning of August 9, came back to her private house in Buon Ho town, Dak Lak province at around 10 PM of the same day. She is still tired after more than ten hours being questioned by police officers from the Ministry of Public Security.

On Thursday, police forcibly detained her and issued decisions to prosecute her on allegation of affronting the red-yellow star flag. Police in Dak Lak province also issued decisions, the first places her under house arrest and the second bans her from international travel.

Police conducted her house search, confiscating a numbers of items, including a laptop and Ipad as well as books.

Speaking with Defend the Defenders, Vy said she was interrogated about her social activities and posts on social networks, including Facebook.

Observers said Vy whose daughter is 22 months old, still faces being arrested after two months when her daughter will be over two years old.

According to the 1999 Penal Code, those who deliberately affront the national flag and/or the national emblem shall be subject to warning, non-custodial form for up to three years or a prison term of between six months and three years.

Vy, a brave female activist, has publicly announced that she does never recognize the Vietnamese communist regime and its symbols, including the red-yellow star flag.

On September 1, 2017, she reportedly sprayed the Vietnamese flag with white paint and posted her picture with the tainted flag on her Facebook account. The red-yellow star flag has been representing the northern Vietnam before 1975 and the whole country after the nation’s reunification in 1975.

Few hours after her detention, Amnesty International issued a statement calling for her immediate and unconditional release. “This arrest is nothing more than a politically-motivated attempt to silence one of the most powerful voices for human rights in Vietnam,” said Clare Algar, Amnesty International’s Director of Global Operations.

In her recent post on Facebook, Vy called the domestic activists and the international community to pay attention to her case to protect her from Vietnam’s persecution.


Trial against Pro-democracy Campaigner Le Dinh Luong Re-scheduled on August 16

 Defend the Defenders:The People’s Court of Nghe An has decided to hold the first-instance hearing of pro-democracy campaigner Le Dinh Luong on August 16 after postponed it two weeks ago.

Initially, the trial against the activist was set on July 30, but one of his lawyers, Mr. Dang Dinh Manh, asked the court to delay it as he couldnt find time to meet with his client to prepare for his defense due to his busy schedule.

This week, Mr. Manh went to the Nghi Kim temporary detention under the authority of the Nghe An province’s Police Department to meet with Mr. Luong. Ha Huy Son, the another lawyer, visited the rights advocate on July 23.

Mr. Luong, a 53-year-old resident from Yen Thanh district, was arrested on July 24 last year on allegation of subversion under Article 79 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.

He has been held incommunicado since being arrested until late July when his lawyers got approval from the People’s Procuracy to meet with him to prepare for his defense.

Mr. Luongis a veteran in the war against China’s invasion of Vietnam’s northern region in 1980s. State media reported that Mr. Luong is an extremely dangerous element belonging to the U.S.-based Viet Tan (Vietnam Reform Party) which is labeled by Vietnamese authorities as a terrorist organization.

According to the Nghe An police, Mr. Luong once called for boycotting the elections of the parliament and local People’s Councils while capitalizing on the environmental disasters caused by Formosa to cause social disorders and instigate demonstrations.

Mr. Luong himself was attacked by under-covered policemen in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong in August 2015 when he visited Tran Minh Nhat, who then completed his sentence on alleged subversion. Many other activists were also beaten in that incident.After his detention, his relatives were also brutally beaten by police forces twice.

Thearrest of Luong is part of Vietnam’s intensified crackdown on local political dissidents, human rights advocates, social activists and online bloggers.Since 2017, more than 50 activists have been arrested and charged with vague articles in the national security provisions such as subversion and “conducting anti-state propaganda” of the Penal Code. Most of them have been convicted and sentenced to severe imprisonments up to 16 years in prison.

Among convicted are prominent human rights attorney Nguyen Van Dai, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison and five years of probation, human rights defender Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, a well-known blogger with penname Mother Mushroom, who was given ten years in prison, and environmentalist and labor activist Hoang Duc Binh, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

If convicted, Luong face imprisonment of up to life imprisonment or even death punishment, according to the current Vietnamese law.In recent months, Vietnam has jailed 13 activists with the same charge, with imprisonment terms of between seven and 15 years in prison and one and five years under house arrest afterward.

Vietnam will also hold the trial against Nguyen Trung Truc, spokesman of the unsanctioned online organization Brotherhood for Democracy on August 17. He was arrested on August 4, 2017 and charged with subversion.

In late July, Human Rights Watch issued a statement calling on Vietnam’s communist regime to drop all politically-motivated charges against Mr. Luong and release him immediately and unconditionally.

“Vietnamese authorities frequently employ fabricated political charges to punish activists for being affiliated with non-communist groups or parties critical of the government,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“Le Dinh Luong is facing prison for protesting the dumping of toxic waste and other environmental disasters that the government should be doing something about,” he noted.

“Vietnamese police routinely deprive detained rights activists and bloggers of access to lawyers and family members for months, and then only give their lawyers a very short time to prepare the case before trial,” Robertson said, adding “Fundamental change is needed in Vietnam’s justice system, but for the needed reform there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

===== August 11 =====

Jailed Pro-democracy Activists Vu Quang Thuan, Nguyen Van Dien Transferred Away from Their Locations

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s authorities have transferred Vu Quang Thuan and Nguyen Van Dien, who were convicted of “anti-state propaganda” in January, to prison camps far from their families, according to Ms. Huynh Thi Ut.

The transfers were made on August 6, said Ms. Ut, the mother of imprisoned pro-democracy campaigner Tran Hoang Phuc, who was also sentenced to six years in prison and four years of probation in the same case.

Particularly, Mr. Thuan, who was sentenced to eight years in prison and five years under house arrest, was taken to Ba Sao prison camp under the authority of the Ministry of Public Security. The camp is located in Kim Bang district, Ha Nam province, about 80 km from Hanoi where his family is residing.

Mr. Dien, who was given six years and six months in prison, and four years under house arrest, was transferred to the Prison camp No. 5 located in Yen Dinh district, Thanh Hoa province, around 400 km from Yen Bai province where his family is living.

Both Thuan and Dien are member of the unsanctioned organization Vietnam Reviving Campaign. They were kidnapped in early Mach 2017 and later charged with “anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.

Thuan and Dien were accused to produce 17 videoclips and posted on their social netwwork accounts while Phuc was said to assist them in producing and posting 3 video clips.

On January 31, 2018, the People’s Court of Hanoi city held their trial, finding them guilty. The trio received a total 20.5 years in prison and 13 years of probation, including six months in prison and four years under house arrest given to Mr. Phuc, the president of the Vietnamese Students for Human Rights. The Higher People’s Court in Hanoi upheld their sentences on April 10 during their appeal.

The trio affirmed that they are innocent and plan to submit their appeals to the Supreme People’s Court.

On August 11, Ms. Ut informed Defend the Defenders that her son was transferred to An Phuoc prison camp in the southern province of Binh Duong, around 100 km from her house in Tan Binh district, HCM City.

Along with giving activists with lengthy jail sentences, Vietnam has applied a number of additional punishment against the local jailed activists. Many of jailed activists have been sent to serve their sentences to the prison camps far from their families in order to cause difficilties for their families to supply them with aditional food and stuffs.