Higher People’s Court in HCM City Denies Appeal of HRD Nguyen Ngoc Anh, Sending Him Back to Prison

HRD, pro-democracy activist Nguyen Ngoc Anh in a public demonstration against Formosan

Defend the Defenders, November 7, 2019


On November 7, the Higher People’s Court in Ho Chi Minh City rejected the appeal of human rights defender and environmentalist Nguyen Ngoc Anh, sending him back to prison in the hearing failed to meet the international standards for a fair trial.

Mr. Anh, 39, will have to serve his 6-year imprisonment on the allegation of “Making, storing, disseminating, or propagandizing information, materials, and products that aim to oppose the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 117 of the country’s Criminal Code for his online posting on his Facebook account. In addition, his imprisonment is followed by five years of probation.

In the hearing which lasted a few hours on the morning of Thursday, his wife, relatives, and friends were not permitted to enter the courtroom to observe it but watched its development via a TV screen in another room, typical for political cases.

Observers said the judge undermined the defense statement of Mr. Anh’s lawyer and from himself. The judge even questioned him why he attended anti-Formosa demonstrations in May 2016 since the Formosa’s spill did not directly affect Ben Tre province where Anh has a shrimp farm. In response, Anh said he wants to speak out to protect the environment everywhere on the earth. He claims that he is innocent.

Mr. Anh was arrested on August 30, 2018 by the authorities in the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre due to his postings and live streams on Facebook which are about prototypical issues of concern to social activists in Vietnam, including the environmental destruction wrought by the Formosa’s toxic waste spill in April 2016, the lack of free choice in elections in 2016, and the welfare of political prisoners. However, Vietnam’s communist regime sees them as harmful and defamation of the regime.

Since being arrested, he has been a subject of inhumane treatment by Ben Tre province’s authorities. He was brutally beaten by an inmate in September who mostly acted under the instruction of the local police as they want him not to appeal the sentence given by the province’s court on June 6.

Authorities in Ben Tre have also persecuted his wife who has to take care of their six-year-old child. They have been placing her under close surveillance and several times summoned her to a police station for questioning.

Two days prior to his appeal, Human Rights Watch issued a press release calling on Vietnam’s communist regime to drop the charge against him and free him immediately and unconditionally. By convicting him, Vietnam clearly violates his right to freedom of speech, said the New York-based rights group.

Mr. Anh is among 237 prisoners of conscience being held by the regime in severe living conditions.