HCM City Authorities Prosecute Three Members of Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam, Lengthy Imprisonments Expected


Defend the Defenders, November 11, 2020


The People’s Procuracy of Ho Chi Minh City has decided to prosecute three members of the unregistered professional group Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN) named President Dr. Pham Chi Dung, Vice President Nguyen Tuong Thuy, and Mr. Le Huu Minh Tuan on the charge of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code.

According to their lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng, the trio will be tried per Clause 2 of the article with potential imprisonment of between ten years and 20 years if they are convicted.

The city’s People’s Procuracy has issued a 12-page indictment, attorney Mieng said after the first meeting with the defendants since Dr. Dung’s arrest in November last year and the two others’ detention in May and June this year.

Lawyer Mieng said that with his presence, Dr. Dung affirmed that he is innocent and has not violated Vietnam’s law.

Last month, the city’s Police Department concluded the investigation against the trio and proposed to prosecute the trio after holding them between five months and one year without allowing them to meet with their lawyers nor their relatives.

Dr. Dung, who was among 100 Information Heroes in 2014 of the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF), is a former security officer working for HCM City’s Party Committee. He is a well-known writer for Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia (RFA) as well as other independent websites. He is among co-founders of IJAVN and held its president post since its establishment in 2014 until his arrest in early November last year. He was blocked from going to Geneva to attend Vietnam’s UPR in 2014 and his detention was made after he submitted a letter to the EU Parliament in which he urged the EU legislators not to vote for the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement due to Hanoi’s increasing human rights abuse.

Meanwhile, Mr. Thuy, born in 1952. He involved in activism by participating in a series of peaceful demonstrations in Hanoi in 2011 against China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea). He was invited to participate in the freedom of press hearing held by the US Congress in Washington DC in 2013. He was also among IJAVN’s co-founders and became its vice president from 2014 until his arrest in May this year. Along with many articles posted on the IJAVN’s website vietnamthoibao.org, he is a contributor to RFA.

Mr. Tuan, born in 1989, has numerous articles about human rights and socio-economic issues of Vietnam.

In order to maintain Vietnam under a one-party regime, the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam is requesting the security forces not to allow opposition groups and independent civil society organizations. It strictly controls media and local dissidents and activists can express their opinions on social networks such as Facebook, Youtube, or Twitter.

Vietnam is placed at 175th out of 180 countries in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index of the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

The country is among the largest prisons of prisoners of conscience in Southeast Asia. According to Defend the Defenders’ latest statistics, Vietnam’s communist regime is holding 260 prisoners of conscience in hard living conditions.