Trial against Eight Members of Hiến Pháp Group Postponed, New Schedule Not Announced


Defend the Defenders, January 14, 2020


Vietnam’s communist regime has postponed the first-instance hearing 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 in Ho Chi Minh City made the decision to delay the trial on January 13, one day prior to the scheduled date, saying the postpone was due to the request of Mr. Le Quy Loc, one of the defendants, for summoning witness(es).

The court has not set the new date for the trial but it would be within 30 days from the day of canceling.

Some observers have linked the delay with the bloody attack of police in Dong Tam in which land rights activist Le Dinh Kinh was killed by riot police. The communist regime is willing to reduce social dissatisfaction which rose to its peak in the recent day so they don’t want people to get more anger from lengthy sentences which would be given for the group members.

According to the court’s announcement, Ms. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hanh and Mrs. Hoang Thi Thu Vang are charged with the allegation of “disruption of security” under Clause 1 of Article 118 of the Criminal Code with imprisonment of between five and 15 years in prison. Six others named 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 of the same article 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.

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.