Vietnam: Update – Upcoming appeal trial of eight detained human rights defenders

fldPosted 2013/4/15 – On 24 April 2013 at 7.30am, the appeal trial of Messrs Ho Duc HoaThai Van DungPaulus Le SonNguyen Xuan AnhTran Minh NhatNguyen Dinh CuongHo Van Oanh and Nguyen Van Duyet will start in Vinh city, in the province of Nghe An on the north central Vietnamese coast. The human rights defenders are part of a larger group of seventeen human rights defenders who were arrested between 30 July and 16 August 2011.

They are all members of the Catholic organisation Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Dong Chua Cuu), and are actively involved in the promotion and protection of economic, social and cultural rights in Vietnam. In January 2013 fourteen of them were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 3 to 13 years. They have been detained and tried under articles 79 and 88 of the Vietnamese penal code, which, respectively, punish ‘subversion of the administration’ and ‘conducting propaganda against the state’.

Mr Dang Xuan Dieu, who was also among those sentenced in January 2013 to thirteen years imprisonment, was unable to appeal. He submitted a petition calling for a new investigation and a new trial, which was only rejected after the deadline for filing the appeal (fifteen days) had passed. The human rights defender had been denied visitation rights and access to legal advice, which could have deterred him from this course of action.

The lawyers of the eight human rights defenders reported that their clients have been facing difficult prison conditions. Paulus Le Son, Tran Minh Nhat, Nguyen Dinh Cuong and Ho Van Oanh are being held in prison cells without electricity. They are only provided limited water and food, sometimes visibly old. Paulus Le Son has had medicine withheld and has no access to newspapers, books, or writing materials. He was only allowed access to a bible after three days of hunger strike. Tran Minh Nhat was reportedly physically assaulted by another inmate two months ago.

Front Line Defenders reiterates its calls on the Vietnamese authorities to quash the convictions of the aforementioned human rights defenders and to effect their immediate and unconditional release.

For further information on this case, please see the Front Line Defenders update dated 24 September 2012, a joint letter co-authored by Front Line Defenders and several other international NGOs, dated 27 August 2012, and a Front Line Defenders urgent appeal, dated 14 November 2011.