Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for June 3-9, 2019: Blogger Nguyen Ngoc Anh Sentenced to Six Years in Prison for Facebook Posts
Defend the Defenders | June 9, 2019
Vietnam’s communist regime continues to intensify its crackdown on local activists, sentencing human rights defender Nguyen Ngoc Anh and anti-corruption campaigner Nguyen Quang Tuy with respective imprisonment of six years and two years in prison.
On June 6, the People’s Court of Ben Tre province convicted 39-year-old Anh of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Penal Code for his Facebook activities. The aquatic engineer and shrimp grower has involved in environmental protection as well as voicing against China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea).
One day later, the People’s Court of Hung Nguyen district, Nghe An province, found Mr. Tuy guilty of “obstructing public officers from carrying out their public duties” pursuant Article 330 of the Penal Code. The case is trumped-up and aims to silence other anti-corruption activists who are opposing numerous toll booths stations wrongly placed in many localities to illegally collect transport fees from drivers.
The People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City will hold the first-instance hearing on June 24-25 to try Vietnamese American Michael Minh Phuong Nguyen and two local activists named Huynh Duc Thanh Binh and Tran Long Phi on allegation of “Activities against the people’s government” under Article 109 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code. The trio is likely to face long-term imprisonment given the hard course the regime is following in recent years with more arrest and longer jail sentences.
Meanwhile, authorities in Nghe An province have issued an arrest warrant against local citizen Phan Cong Hai, who has been working for promoting human rights, multi-democracy and protection of the country’s sovereignty. Currently, Mr. Hai is in a safe place and continues his campaign.
According to Defend the Defenders’ statistics, Vietnam is holding 229 prisoners of conscience. Hanoi always denies of holding prisoners of conscience but only law violators.
Since the beginning of this year, Vietnam has detained 17 activists and convicted three dissidents. As many as 33 activists are held in pre-trial detention for months.
Prisoners of conscience Hoang Duc Binh and Nguyen Bac Truyen temporarily suspended their hunger strike on May 28. They started their fasting campaign on May 12 to support imprisoned blogger Nguyen Van Hoa, who was reportedly beaten and placed in a solitary cell in An Diem Prison camp.
===== June 3 =====
Nghe An Issues Arrest Warrant for Patriotic Citizen Phan Cong Hai
Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Nghe An province have issued an arrest warrant against local citizen Phan Cong Hai, who has been working for promoting human rights, multi-democracy and protection of the country’s sovereignty.
According to the arrest warrant dated May 31, Hai is accused of “making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 117 of the country’s Penal Code.
Many Facebookers circulated the police arrest warrant with Hai’s picture in which he holds a banner saying “I dont want Vietnam to become Tibet.”
According to his Facebook account named Phan Cong Hai, there were numerous statuses about systemic corruption, human rights abuse, serious widespread environmental pollution, and the government’s weak response to China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea).
According to unofficial sources, Mr. Hai has fled to a foreign country.
===== June 6 =====
Vietnam Court Sentences Activist to Six Years in Prison for Facebook Posts
Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA): For Facebook posts on environment and democracy, Vietnamese activist Nguyen Ngoc Anh was sentenced to six years in prison today (June 6). The decision was handed down by the People’s Court of Ben Tre province during the one-day trial.
Mr.Anh, 39, was charged with a national security offense under Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code, for “making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” He was arrested by police at Ben Tre province, where he lives, on August 30, 2018.
Human Rights Watch reported that state media claimed Anh “used his personal Facebook account to publicly write, share many articles and video clips, and access many live streams of reactionary subjects both inside and outside Vietnam, with the content that propagandize (sic) badly about the State and the Communist Party of Vietnam; he called, agitated, and incited people to protest and destroy in June 2018 and the upcoming celebration of September 2.” September 2 commemorates the proclamation of Vietnam’s independence from France.
In April 2016, Anh participated in protests against the Vietnam marine life disaster, also known as the Formosa environmental disaster, which caused massive fish deaths and several health problems in central Vietnam. He had also expressed support for political prisoners, who are advocating for democracy, labor rights, and free expression in the one-party state.
“Today’s show trial and sentencing of Nguyen Ngoc Anh clearly demonstrate that the Vietnamese government will stop at nothing to crack down on dissent. The message is clear: anyone who opposes the state and keeps powers in check will be suppressed at all costs,” said Tess Bacalla, executive director of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance.
Mr.Anh is among several activists who have been arrested since 2016 for trying to raise public awareness on the Formosa disaster, and other social and political issues in Vietnam.
Between 2016 and 2017, state authorities arrested political bloggers Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (also known as Mother Mushroom) and Ho Van Hai, and Radio Free Asia correspondent Nguyen Van Hoa, for their reports on the disaster (see SEAPA’s 2017 World Press Freedom Day report on Vietnam). Hoa is now serving a seven-year sentence, Ho Van Hai a four-year jail term. Mother Mushroom was released in October 2018 and went into exile in the U.S. shortly thereafter.
In May 2019, Amnesty International reported that 10 percent of the 128 political prisoners in Vietnam were jailed for expressing their opinion on social media platforms such as Facebook.
Following the implementation of the country’s Cybersecurity Law in January 2019, the Vietnamese government was expected to intensify its surveillance and crackdown against dissent. (Listen to SEAPA podcast to know more about Vietnam’s Cybersecurity Law.)
“Fears of heightened risks faced by dissidents and activists, or anyone who tries to express his opinion in the digital sphere, were not unfounded. Nguyen’s case demonstrates this gruesome reality as the government continues to abuse its power and remains unrelenting in its use of legislation to restrain basic human rights,” said Bacalla.
===== June 7 =====
Anti-corruption Activist Sentenced to Two Years in Prison in Trumped-up Case
Defend the Defenders: On June 7, the People’s Court of Hung Nguyen district, Nghe An province, convicted Mr. Nguyen Quang Tuy, an anti-tollbooth fraud (ATF) activist, of “obstructing public officers from carrying out their public duties” pursuant Article 330 of the Penal Code.
In a trial which failed to meet international standards for a fair trial, Mr. Tuy was sentenced to two years in jail.
He was arrested on February 9 after refusing to pay toll at BOT Ben Thuy tollbooth. He and many drivers considered this tollbooth placed in the wrong location and helps the investor to illegally collects tolls. Vehicles that do not use the 25.8 km -tollway in Vinh city still have to pay tolls when they drive past BOT Ben Thuy.
As Mr. Tuy drove his car past the BOT Ben Thuy tollbooth checkpoint, it hit a pole. According to Thoi Bao de, this pole cost VND300,000 ($13).
Many ATF citizens from many localities around the country came to the court hearing as witnesses and to support Mr. Tuy, but they were not allowed to enter the courtroom, in a supposedly ‘open’ hearing.
According to many local activists, Mr. Le Ngoc Hoa, vice chairman of the People’s Committee in Nghe An province, heads the interest group behind the BOT Ben Thuy tollbooth; and Mr. Tuy was trapped, bashed and jailed because he touched this ‘Red Mafia’ interest group.
Vietnamese Activist to be Deported From U.S. After Seven-Country Asylum-Seeking Odyssey
RFA: A Vietnamese activist on the run is facing possible deportation from the U.S. back to Vietnam after fleeing the country and embarking on a journey through seven countries in a quest to seek asylum.
Ha Van Thanh, born in 1982 left Vietnam on May 12 2018 because he was afraid of being imprisoned like fellow activists Hoang Duc Bing and Nguyen Nam Phong, all of whom were involved in a collective march with hundreds of victims of the Formosa marine environmental disaster in April 2016.
Ha said he then walked to the U.S. border and met with police to request asylum.
While in detention, he went through immigration questioning and went to court three times. Ha said after the third trial he was denied refugee status and is scheduled to be deported.
HCM City to Try American Michael and Two Vietnamese Activists on Subversion Allegation
Defend the Defenders: The People’s Court in Ho Chi Minh City will hold the first-instance hearing on June 24-25 to try Vietnamese American Michael Minh Phuong Nguyen and two local activists named Huynh Duc Thanh Binh and Tran Long Phi on allegation of “Activities against the people’s government” under Article 109 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code.
In addition, Mr. Huynh Duc Thinh, a former prisoner of conscience and the father of Binh, will also be tried for misprision under Clause 1 of Article 390 of the same code.
Mr. Binh, 23, will be protected by lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng while assigned lawyer Doan Trong Nghia will provide legal assistance for Phi, also 23, and the American citizen.
The trio will face hard imprisonment of between 12 and 20 years in prison while Mr. Thinh’s imprisonment will be between six and 36 months in jail.
The trio was kidnapped by security forces on July 7, 2018 after touring the central region. Mr. Thinh was detained one day later. The police in HCM City publicized their arrests and detention one week later.
Three of them were held incommunicado for nine months while Mr. Thinh was released in February but was requested to go to the police’s station to report every week. His seedling shop in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong was confiscated as the police said it was used for the gathering of “reactionary individuals.”
Phi and Binh participated in the mass protests against two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security in HCM City and Dong Nai province in mid-June last year. However, Michael came to visit Vietnam in late June 2018.
Their arrests were part of the ongoing crackdown on Vietnamese activists. Last year, Vietnam arrested at least 27 activists and convicted 41 human rights defenders, political dissidents and bloggers with total imprisonment of 303 years in prison and 69 years of probation. In addition, more than 100 participants in peaceful demonstrations in 2018 were sentenced to between eight months and four years and a half in jail.
According to Defend the Defenders’ statistics, Vietnam is holding 229 prisoners of conscience. Hanoi always denies holding prisoners of conscience but only law violators.
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