Australian Legislator Urges Vietnam to Release Three Social Activists
by [rollinglinks]Vu Quoc Ngu
[/rollinglinks], Feb 10, 2015
Defend The Defenders
[themify_box style=”blue rounded” ]Mr. Bernard Fernand Ripoll, a member of the Australian House of Representatives since 1998, has sent a letter to Vietnamese Minister of Justice Ha Hung Cuong to ask him to unconditionally release three democracy activists who have been detained since mid-May last year.[/themify_box]
Mr. Ripoll, who is currently Australian parliament secretary for small business and shadow minister for financial service and superannuation, said Vietnam should drop allegation of “causing public disorder” against Pham Minh Vu, Le Thi Phuong Anh and Do Nam Trung.
On May 15, the trio travelled from the central province of Quang Tri to the southern province of Dong Nai, where tens of thousands of workers held demonstrations against China’s illegal deployment of HYSY-981 oil rig offshore central Vietnam. Some of protests turned into riots, where thugs attacked Chinese workers and destroyed their factories.
Just arriving in a local industrial zone, the trio was detained by security forces. Initially, they were charged with allegation of inciting anti-China riots, according to the state-run media. However, due to lack of evidence, the allegations against them were changed into “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens” under Article 258 of the Criminal Code.
In his letter dated on Feb 9, Shadow Minister of Sport Ripoll said that the place where Vu, Anh and Trung were travelling to, “is not a region with any curfew or any sign forbidding taking photograph, because it is a civilian area.”
He also said the trio never disrupted any public orders or incited violent protests. The trio arrived in Saigon on May 14 and went to Dong Nai at 8.15 am on following day, so they were not familiar with roads, things or had any connection with workers there to “rouse” or “incite” them, he added.
The long-term Australian legislator suggested Minister of Public Security to order Dong Nai province’s authorities to free the three activists immediately and unconditionally.
Mr. Ripoll has also urged the Vietnamese ministers of justice and public security to honor Vietnam’s commitment under the International Covenant on Civil and Politics Rights, of which the communist nation is a signatory.
His letter was sent three day ahead of the scheduled trial for the trio, all are members of unsanctioned The Brotherhood of Democracy, one civil organization aims to promote multi-party democracy and protect the country’s sovereignty against China’s expansionism. The trio will be charged with “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens” under Article 258 of the Criminal Code.
Vietnam has used fabricated allegations to silence local dissent, according to international human rights bodies. In 2013, the communist government arrested human rights lawyer Le Quoc Quan and charged him with tax evasion and last year, it used bogus traffic allegations to imprison land rights activist Bui Thi Minh Hang.
Mr. Quan and Ms. Hang, who actively participated in anti-China demonstrations in the 2011-2014 period, were jailed for 30 months and 36 months, respectively.
In recent years, a number of Vietnamese activists and land petitioners have been charged with allegations according to Article 258 with imprisonment sentences ranging from six months to seven years.
Vietnam, which reiterates to verbally condemn China’s violations of its sovereignty in the East Sea, has imprisoned a number of anti-China peaceful activists.