Hanoi Police Send Human Rights Defender Trinh Ba Phuong to Hospital for Psychiatric Assessment After He Remains Silent during Interrogation

Hanoi-based activist Trinh Ba Phuong

Defend the Defenders, March 23, 2021


Police in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi have sent local land rights activist and human rights advocate Trinh Ba Phuong to a hospital for psychiatic assessment after holding him incommunicado since his arrest in June last year.

After finding out that he had been removed from the Temporary detention center No. 1 under the management of the city’s Police Department, his family questioned the city’s police about his situation and the police investigation replied that he was sent to the National Psychiatric Hospital No. 1 in Thuong Tin district on March 1 for “evaluation” after refusing to cooperate with investigators.

Police investigator named Le The Bac told his wife Do Thi Thu that her husband had been “uncooperative” with police, refusing to look at his interrogators or answer their questions. He also informed her that because of his behavior, prosecutors asked that an assessment of Phuong’s health would be carried out for around four to six weeks.

Thu said her husband was healthy before being arrested and his family has no record of mental health problems. He has declared not to speak during police interrogation unless there is a presence of his lawyer.

Mr. Phuong, 36, is the oldest son of the couple of land rights activists Can Thi Theu and Trinh Ba Khiem, who were jailed for objecting the illegal grabbing of land of Duong Noi commune’s farmers by the Hanoi authorities. In addition, the family has also provided assistance for land petitioners in Dong Tam commune, My Duc district. Before and after the bloody raid of thousands of riot policemen to Dong Tam commune on January 9 last year, Mrs. Theu and her two sons Phuong and Trinh Ba Tu have advocated for Dong Tam land petitioners’ cause and reported the issue to foreign diplomats in Hanoi, including representatives of the US Embassy in Vietnam.

On June 24 last year, police arrested Mrs. Theu and her two sons as well as land rights activist Nguyen Thi Tam also from Duong Noi, accusing them of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code with imprisonment of between seven and 12 years in prison if are convicted. They have been kept incommunicado since their arrest.

While the investigation against Mrs. Theu and her son Tu was completed and their case has been sent to Hoa Binh province’s Procuracy and Court for prosecution, Hanoi’s police have extended investigation against Mr. Phuong and Mrs. Tam.

Four activists in Duong Noi are among more than 60 human rights defenders and land petitioners being arrested in 2020 amid ongoing crackdown on the local activists. Many of them have been convicted of subversion and “conducting anti-state propaganda” with imprisonment of between six and 15 years in prison.

Vietnam is holding around 260 prisoners of conscience, according to Defend the Defenders’ latest statistics. Hanoi always denies holding prisoners of conscience but only law violators. In its response to the UN’s human rights agencies regarding the arrests of four Duong Noi human rights defenders and prominent political blogger Pham Doan Trang, Vietnam’s communist regime said their arrests were not due to their human rights activities but anti-state acts.

Vietnam’s authorities often send local activists to mental facilities. Political blogger Le Anh Hung has been kept in the National Psychiatric Hospital No. 1 for more than one year after holding him incommunicado during the pre-trial detention on the allegation of “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code. Prisoners of conscience Pham Chi Thanh (political blogger Pham Thanh) was also sent to the facility for mental assessment for some time before being taking back to the Temporary detention center No.1 while democracy activist Nguyen Trung Linh reportedly spent several months there before being convicted of “conducting anti-state propanda” and sentenced to 12 years in prison in July last year.