HCM City Court Postpones Trial against 8 Members of Hiến Pháp Group

Waiting for trial members of Hiến Pháp group


Defend the Defenders, March 10, 22020

The People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City has suddenly postponed the first-instance hearing against eight members of the unregistered group named Hiến Pháp (Constitution), just one day prior to the trial scheduled on March 10 in the country’s biggest economic hub.

The court announced its decision when relatives of the defendants were on their ways heading to HCM City, some of them from provinces hundreds of kilometers to the city, Defend the Defenders has learned.

The court did not point out the reasons for its decision but Covid-19 outbreak in Vietnam may be the concern for it.

Two of the defendants named Ms. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hanh and Ms. Hoang Thi Thu Vang are charged with Clause 1 of Article 118 “Disruption of security” of the Penal Code and face imprisonment of between seven and 15 years in prison while the six remaining Mr. Ngo Van Dung, Ms. Doan Thi Hong, Mr. Ho Dinh Cuong, Mr. Le Quy Loc, Mr. Tran Thanh Phuong and Mr. Do The Hoa are accused of the same allegation but under Clause 2 with the risk of being sentenced to between two and seven years in jail if are convicted.

All of them were kidnapped by security forces in HCM City in the first days of September 2018 after they had called for street demonstrations on the occasion of the country’s Independence Day (September 2). Police held them incommunicado for months without informing their families and continued keeping them isolated from outside for around one year after their families found them being imprisoned.

The group was established in 2017 with the aim to enhance civil rights among Vietnamese by disseminating the country’s Constitution approved by the communist-controlled parliament in 2013. Its members were active figures of the mass demonstration in HCM City on June 10, 2018 in which tens of thousands of residents rallied on streets to protest two bills on Special Economic zone and Cyber Security. The first seems to favor Chinese investors amid increasing tensions in the East Sea (South China Sea) while the second aims to silence online government critics.

Recently, Ms. Doan Thi Hong, who was detained when her daughter was about two years old, has informed her family that she is held in very severe conditions. Since being arrested, she has been under physical and mental torture constantly, according to the information she gave her older sister.

Despite doing nothing special harmful for the country, Hiến Pháp group has been targetted by Vietnam’s communist regime. Two members of the group Pham Minh The and Huynh Truong Ca were convicted of “abusing democratic freedom” and “anti-state propaganda” with respective imprisonment of two years and five and half years in 2018-2019.