Vietnamese American and His Two Friends Convicted of Subversion, Sentenced to Total 30 Years in Prison

From left to right: Huynh Duc Thanh Binh, Quoc Bao, Tran Long Phi and Michael Minh Phuong Nguyen

Defend the Defenders, June 24, 2019

On June 24, the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City convicted Vietnamese American Michael Minh Phuong Nguyen and his two Vietnamese friends Huynh Duc Thanh Binh and Tran Long Phi of subversion under Article 109 of the country’s Penal Code, sentencing them to a total 30 years in prison, Defend the Defenders has learned.

Particularly, Mr. Nguyen was given 12 years in prison while Binh was sentenced to ten years and Phi got the remaining eight years. In addition, Nguyen will be deported back to the US right after completing his jail sentence while two young activists will have to serve three-year probation each after their jail sentences end.

Mr. Huynh Duc Thinh, former political prisoner and the father of Binh, was given one-year imprisonment for misprision under Clause 1 of Article 390 of the same code.

Nguyen, Binh and Phi were said to be linked to an independent group named Quốc nội Quật khởi (Internal Struggling) which aims to overthrow the communist government. They were kidnapped by the security forces in Ho Chi Minh on July 7 last year, and were held incommunicado until recently, few weeks prior to the trial. Meanwhile, Mr. Thinh was detained one day later, also held incommunicado but released on bail several months ago. He 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 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 a 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 half in jail.

According to Defend the Defenders’ statistics, Vietnam is around holding 220 prisoners of conscience. Hanoi always denies of holding prisoners of conscience but only law violators.

The communist regime has arrested at least 20 activists this year, charging most of them with serious allegations in the national security provision in the Penal Code such as subversion, terrorism and “conducting anti-state propaganda.”