Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for December 16-22, 2019: First-instance Hearing against Eight Members of Hien Phap Group Re-scheduled on January 10

Defend the Defenders | December 22, 2019


Vietnam’s communist regime has decided to re-schedule the first-instance hearing against eight members of the unregistered group Hien Phap (Constitution) on January 10, 2020 instead of December 25 this year.

The People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City will carry out the hearing and the group will likely receive heavy sentences of between seven and 15 years in jail. All of them were kidnapped in early September 2018 and charged with “disruption of security” for their plan to hold peaceful demonstrations on September 4 on the occasion of the country’s National Day (September 2). They were held incommunicado for 11 months and recently were permitted to meet with their lawyers.

Pro-democracy activist Nguyen Nang Tinh, who was convicted of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 11 years in prison and five years of probation, has challenged the decision of the People’s Court of Nghe An province in the first-instance hearing on November 15. His appeal hearing may be carried out soon by the Higher People’s Court in Hanoi although he has little chance to get lighter sentences.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security unexpectedly changed the charges against a number of activists from political ones to criminal ones in their wanted notices posted on the ministry’s website. The move was criticized by the Brotherhood for Democracy.

Former prisoner of conscience Le Cong Dinh was denied of being granted with a passport and the police department in Ho Chi Minh City has no explanation.

===== December 16 =====

Former Prisoner of Conscience Le Cong Dinh Denied of Being Granted with Passport

Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Ho Chi Minh City have rejected to grant a passport for former prisoner of conscience Le Cong Dinh, denying his right to freely travel abroad.

Mr. Dinh, who was imprisoned five years in 2009-2013 on the charge of subversion, applied for a new passport in the Immigration Management Division of HCM City’s Police Department on December 4. Two weeks later, on December 16, he received a denial announcement from an officer from the division who refused to point out the reason for the refusal.

In August last year, the city’s police also rejected his application.

The US-educated lawyer is among the leading pro-democracy activists in Vietnam. He was arrested in 2009 and initially charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” and later changed into “subversion” in the same case of prominent activist and entrepreneur Tran Huynh Duy Thuc and Nguyen Tien Trung.

He continues to work for promoting human rights and multi-party democracy in Vietnam after being released in 203. This year, he is among the three activists winning annual prizes of the US-based Vietnam Human Rights Network.

Dinh is among more than 100 Vietnamese activists being barred from international travel. The Ministry of Public Security often uses government decree No. 136 to prevent political dissidents and human rights activists from going abroad with the common controversial reason “national security.” The communist regime has used a number of ways to halt their international travel by denial of granting passports, blocking at national border gates or confiscating their passports.

===== December 18 =====

Trial against Eight Members of Hiến Pháp Group Re-scheduled on January 10: Lawyers

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s communist regime has re-scheduled its plan to try eight members of the unregistered group Hiến Pháp (Constitution) on the allegation “disruption of security” under Article 118 of the country’s Criminal Code” for their intention to participate in a peaceful demonstration in early September last year, Defend the Defenders has learned.

The People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City will hold the first-instance hearing which may take several days from January 10 in its headquarters in the country’s biggest economic hub, said lawyers Dang Dinh Manh and Nguyen Van Mieng, who were hired to defend some of the activists of the group.

According to their families, the People’s Procuracy of HCM City has released the indictments against them, in which it has proposed the People’s Court to try Ms. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hanh and Mrs. Hoang Thi Thu Vang on accusation of Clause 1 with imprisonment of between five and 15 years in prison while Mr. Do The Hoa, Mr. Ho Dinh Cuong, Mr. Tran Thanh Phuong, Mr. Ngo Van Dung, Mr. Le Quy Loc and Ms. Doan Thi Hong are subjected to the allegation under Clause 2 with imprisonment of between two and seven years if are convicted.

All of them were kidnapped by HCM City’s police on September 2-4, 2018 and held incommunicado for months. Their families had not been informed about their detentions and charges for months after they went to different state agencies and police stations to ask for their status and found out that they were kept by the city’s police.

It was concerned that single-mother Hong was detained when her daughter was only 29-month-old while the Vietnamese law states that a mother should not be separated from their child under three years of age.

Hiến Pháp (Constitution) is a group of activists working to educate the public about the human rights they are entitled to under Vietnam’s 2013 Constitution by disseminating the country’s 2013 Constitution among citizens. Its members were active during the mass demonstration in HCM City on June 10, 2018 in which tens of thousands of Vietnamese rallied on streets to protest the communist regime’s plan to approve two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cybersecurity.

In order to prevent similar protests in early September 2018, Vietnam’s security forces launched a big campaign to persecute local dissent and all members of the Hiến Pháp group became their targets. Two other members of the group named Huynh Truong Ca and Le Minh The were arrested and convicted of “conducting anti-state propaganda” and “abusing democratic freedom,” respectively while three others were forced to relocate in Thailand to avoid being arrested.

Defend the Defenders considers eight jailed members of the group as prisoners of conscience and the accusations against them are groundless.

===== December 18 =====

Convicted Activist Nguyen Nang Tinh Appeals

Defend the Defenders: Pro-democracy activist and environmentalist Nguyen Nang Tinh has appealed the decision of the People’s Court of Nghe An province in the first-instance hearing on November 15, in which he was convicted of “conducting anti-state propaganda” and sentenced to 11 years in prison and five years of probation.

One of his lawyers in the first-instance hearing, attorney Dang Dinh Manh said he received the confirmation about Mr. Tinh’s appeal from the Supreme People’s Court and the appeal hearing may be conducted by the Higher People’s Court in Hanoi in coming months.

Lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng said Tinh has a low chance of getting a lighter sentence in appeal although he and two other attorneys pointed out a number of wrongdoings of the investigation by Nghe An province’s police and examination carried out by the province’s Department of Information and Communication.

Mr. Tinh, 43, was arrested by Nghe An province’s security forces on May 29 who later charged him with “conducting anti-state propaganda.” Authorities in Nghe An said Mr. Tinh has used his Facebook account Nguyễn Năng Tĩnh to post and share articles and videos as well as images with content defaming state leaders and distort the ruling communist party’s policies.

Mr. Tinh, who is a lecturer of Nghe An College of Cultural and Art, is very active in promoting human rights and multi-party democracy, and speak out about the country’s issues such as systemic corruption, human rights abuse, widespread environmental pollution, and China’s violations to Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea) and the weak response of the communist government in Hanoi.

There are some videoclips on Youtube in which Mr. Tinh tough students to sing a number of patriotic songs composed by dissidents in which the government is criticized for suppressing anti-China activists.

===== December 22 =====

Allegations against Many Activists Suddenly Changed from Political to Criminal

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security has changed the political charges of many pro-democracy activists and human rights defenders to criminal ones in a bid to defame them and make ways for detaining them even they have been relocating to other countries.

In its website, the ministry changed the charges against many activists in their wanted notice. Particularly, the charge against Mr. Nguyen Van Trang and Mai Van Tam was changed from subversion to procuring while the charge against Ms. Pham Thi Lan was changed to “sử dụng trái phép vũ khí thô sơ” or “unauthorized use of rudimentary weapons” which is not included in the country’s Criminal Code. Mr. Tam and Ms. Lan are vice presidents of the Brotherhood for Democracy (BFD).

Former prisoners of conscience Tran Minh Nhat’s accusation of “failure to serve a judgment” was changed to “taking bribes” while the same allegation of Thai Van Dung and Le Van Son was changed to “Inciting or aiding another person to commit suicide” in the code. The three activists are members of the US-based Viet Tan (Vietnam Reform Party) which is listed as a terrorist group by the communist regime.

BFD has issued a statement protesting Vietnam’s move, saying it is a dirty game of the communist regime in a bid to enhance chasing those who still stay in the country or ask neighboring countries to deport those who have been forced to relocate to avoid being arrested.

These activists mentioned above have been persecuted and face being arrested by the communist regime so they have been forced to live in shelters in the country or neighboring states.

By changing political allegations against them to criminal ones, Vietnam’s communist regime strives to cheat the international community and avoid global condemnation for human rights abuse.

Vietnam is among the world’s biggest prisons for journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the country is ranked at the 176th of 180 countries in the Global Press Freedom Index 2019 of the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders.

According to Defend the Defenders’ latest statistics, Vietnam is holding at least 239 prisoners of conscience in severe living conditions without proper medical services in prisons across the nation. Hanoi always denies holding prisoners of conscience but only law violators.