Pre-trial Detention of Human Rights Defender Nguyen Thi Tam Extended for Further Four Months

Dong Tam land petitioners in their first-instance hearing in last September and five detained HRDs

Defend the Defenders, February 26, 2021


The Security Investigation Agency of the Hanoi Police Department has extended the investigation period of local human rights defender and land petitioner Nguyen Thi Tam to further four months, Defend the Defenders has learned from her family.

Her daughter Nguyen Thanh Mai told Defend the Defenders that the information came from her mother lawyer Le Dinh Viet who has received a notice from the police. It means Mrs. Tam cannot meet with her attorney and her family during the next four months. She has been held incommunicado since being arrested on June 24, 2020 on the allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code for her advocacy for human rights and support for Dong Tam land petitioners.

Mrs. Tam is a land rights activist, fighting against the authorities of her commune Duong Noi grabbing the land of her family and people in her village since 2008. She was detained and held in pre-trial detention from June 11 until November 20, 2008. In 2014, she was re-arrested and sentenced to 18 months in prison for “resisting on-duty state officials” while protesting land seizure.

After being released, she continues to appeal the land grabbing carried out by the Duong Noi commune’s authorities who seized the agricultural land of the local farmers to sell to property developers at prices much higher than the compensation price given to the farmers. In addition, she has also provided assistance for Dong Tam commune’s farmers whose land was also taken by the My Duc district authorities and given to the army’s Viettel company for property project development.

Also on June 24 last year, Hanoi police arrested Duong Noi-based human rights activist and land petitioner Trinh Ba Phuong on the same allegation. Mr. Phuong has also been held incommunicado since the arrest and it is likely the police extend his pre-trial detention. On the same day, police in Hoa Binh province arrested Phuong’s mother- former prisoner of conscience and land rights activist Can Thi Theu and his younger brother Trinh Ba Tu. Recently, the People’s Court of Hoa Binh province has informed their lawyers that their case’s investigation was completed and the investigation results were handed over to the court. It is likely the court will hold the first-instance hearing to try Mrs. Theu and her son on charge of “conducting anti-state propaganda” with potential imprisonment of between seven and 12 years in prison, even to 20 years.

Like Mrs.. Tam, Mrs. Theu and her two sons were arrested for their advocacy given to Dong Tam land petitioners and reports the bloody attack of around 3,000 riot policemen to the commune in the early hours of January 9, 2020 in which police shot dead Dong Tam communal leader Le Dinh Kinh and arrested more than 30 villagers with charges of “murder” and “resisting on-duty state officials.” In September last year, the People’s Court of Hanoi convicted two sons and one grandchild of Mr. Kinh and three others of “murder” for causing the deaths of three police officers during the raid although the authorities have not showed solid evidence of the farmers’ acts against the police as well as the remainings of the police officers. Two of them were sentenced to death, one with life imprisonment and the three others between 12 years and 16 years. Their appeal hearing is scheduled on March 8-10.

In its response to the UN’s Office of High Commissioner on Human Rights on February 4 regarding the arbitrary detentions of five human rights defenders Pham Doan Trang and four activists from Duong Noi who were arrested and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” due to their supports to Dong Tam land petitioners and reports about the bloody raid in the commune, Vietnam’s communist regime affirmed that Dong Tam land petitioners were responsible for the incident and the five human rights defenders were investigated not for their activism but their violations of the country’s law.

The arrests of four human rights defenders in Duong Noi commune were part of the intensified crackdown on the local political dissidents and social activists prior to the 13th National Congress of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam which ended on February 1 with many conservative senior officials being re-elected to the country’s leadership for the next five years, including General Secretary cum State President Nguyen Phu Trong, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, and Minister of Public Security To Lam who were responsible for the bloody attack in Dong Tam last year as well as the political persecution starting in late 2015.

According to Defend the Defenders’ statistics, Vietnam is holding at least 250 prisoners of conscience in severe living conditions in prison camps and detention facilities across the nation. Hanoi always denies holding prisoners of conscience but only law violators.