Human Rights Defender Trinh Ba Phuong Exercises His Right to Silence Since His Arrest on June 24, Investigation against IJAVN’s Vice President Nguyen Tuong Thuy Likely Extended

Hanoi-based activist Trinh Ba Phuong

Defend the Defenders, September 24, 2020


Human rights activist Trinh Ba Phuong has reportedly remained silent during the past three months being kept in police custody since his arrest on June 24, Defend the Defenders has learned.

Talking to Defend the Defenders, his wife Mrs. Do Thi Thu said she got this information from the Security Investigation Agency of the Hanoi Police Department. Thu was summoned to the agency’s Office for interrogation on the morning of September 24.

The police investigators told Thu that her husband’s health is good but he has not opened his mouth since being detained three months ago.

During the interrogation, the investigators asked her about his health conditions before being detained as well as his Facebook. They also asked her about prominent political writer and human rights defender Ms. Pham Doan Trang, Thu said, adding she told them that her husband was completely healthy but knows nothing about other issues.

Mr. Phuong is the oldest son of the couple of prisoners of conscience Trinh Ba Khiem and Can Thi Theu, who were imprisoned for protesting land grabbing of authorities in the capital city of Hanoi and voicing about human rights violations and multi-party democracy. Together with his parents and his younger brother Trinh Ba Tu, Phuong has often condemned human rights abuse in their locality and reported to foreign diplomats. He provided great support for land petitioners in Dong Tam commune before and after the police raid on January 9 this year, in which riot police brutally killed elderly communal leader Le Dinh Kinh and detained about 30 local farmers.

On June 24, the security forces in Hanoi arrested him and charged him with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code. On the same day, the security forces in the neighboring province of Hoa Binh detained his mother and the younger brother for the same allegation in the National Security provisions of the Criminal Code.

Since then, the mother and the two sons have been kept incommunicado. Mr. Tu was said to conduct a hunger strike for more than 20 days from August 25. However, their family has no updated information about him.

Meanwhile, the Hanoi Police Department has extended the investigation period and kept well-known blogger Pham Chi Thanh (penname Pham Thanh) to further four months. Mr. Thanh was arrested on May 23 on the allegation “conducting anti-state propaganda” for his writing.

It is likely that Ho Chi Minh City’s Police Department has also extended the investigation period in the case of Vice President of the unregistered professional group Independent Journalist Association of Vietnam (IJAVN) Mr. Nguyen Tuong Thuy, who was arrested on May 21 and charged with the same allegation in relation with the arrest of its President Dr. Pham Chi Dung. Mr. Dung was arrested in November last year and still held in pre-trial detention for investigation on the allegation under Article 117 of the Criminal Code. The family of Mr. Thuy has not been informed about the extension.

In recent weeks, Vietnam’s security forces have extended investigation against the IJAVN’s members after arresting two key persons Dr. Dung and Mr. Thuy as well as young member Le Minh Tuan. Police in different localities have summoned a number of IJAVN’s members to the local police stations for questioning. Among the victims of the police harassment are Mr. Nguyen Thien Nhan from HCM City, Hoang Van Hung from Hanoi, Vo Ngoc Luc from the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak, and Do Thanh Nhan from the central province of Quang Ngai.

According to Vietnam’s current law, those who are charged with Article 117 may face imprisonment of between seven years to 12 years even up to 20 years in prison if they are convicted.

As many as 47 activists and bloggers are imprisoned on the allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code (2015) or Article 88 of the Penal Code (1999), according to the Defend the Defenders’ statistics.