January 6, 2019
Defend the Defenders, January 6, 2019
The Police Department of Can Tho City have yet permitted the family of local activist Le Minh The to meet with him after nearly three months of detention, Defend the Defenders has learned.
Mr. The, 54, was arrested on October 10, 2018 and charged with “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code for his peaceful activities which aim to promote human rights and multi-party democracy. Currently, he is held in pre-trial detention in the city’s police temporary detention facility.
In late December 2018, his family asked the city police to allow the family to meet with him. The authorities of the detention facility pledged to the family to grant such a permit and asked the family to get a letter of verification from the communal authorities. However, on January 02, when the family came with the document, the authorities of the detention facility denied.
Mr. The is one of 18 founding members of the unregistered group Hien Phap (Constitution) which is disseminating the country’s 2013 Constitution and other international human rights treaties in a bid to educate people about their human rights as well as civil and political rights.
According to Vietnam’s Criminal Procedure Code, a person arrested with criminal charge(s) is allowed to meet with his/her family and lawyer in pre-trial detention. However, in most of political cases, the detainees are not permitted to get access to legal counceling nor their families in investigation periods which last between four and 16 months or even 28 months.
Mr. The is among ten members of the group being arrested or kidnapped by security forces in September-October last year. Four of them, Mr. Ngo Van Dung, Ms. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hanh, Ms. Doan Thi Hong and Mr. Ho Dinh Cuong were charged with “disrupting security” under Article 118 while Mr. Huynh Truong Ca was arrested and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Penal Code. Mr. The is facing imprisonment of between three and seven years in prison while the lattest was convicted and sentenced to five years and six months in prison and three years under house arrest while the four remaining are facing imprisonment of up to 15 years in prison.
Three other members of the group named Do The Hoa, Tran Thanh Phuong and Hung Hung are still in detention from early September 2018 without being officially charged and their families are not informed about their arrest.
After the mass demonstrationin mid June 2018 with the participation of tens of thousands of people from different social groups to protest two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security, Vietnam’s security forces are intensifying crackdown to prevent similar street protests. In early September, security forces reportedly arrested dozens of activists who were key figures in mid-June protests. Many of them have been held incommunicado and their families are not informed about their arrests and detentions.
According to Now! Campaign, Vietnam is holding at least 245 prisoners of conscience, 225 of them were convicted on different charges in controversial national security provisions in the Penal Code and sentenced to between eight months and life imprisonment. As many as 20 prisoners of conscience are held in pre-trial detention.