April 16, 2021
Police in southern Vietnam’s Binh Thuan province have freed a Facebook user after holding him for five days of questioning over social media posts opposing authorities, the blogger said on Wednesday.
Nguyen Van Son Trung was detained April 9 following the arrest of ethnic Cham poet Dong Chuong Tu, who was released on April 10 after being held and questioned for three days.
A third friend, Tran Duc Tin, was arrested on April 10 but was also freed after several days of questioning.
All three had discussed on Facebook the procedure for nominating independent candidates for election to Vietnam’s National Assembly and local People’s Councils, a political process tightly controlled by the country’s ruling Communist Party, which carefully vets named candidates for Party approval.
Trung was handcuffed by police on his arrest and was questioned for five days before his release, Trung told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
“During those five days, they asked me to verify the posts I had put up on my Facebook account,” Trung said.
“They also wanted me to explain the discussions my friends and I had held on our group chat, including how to self-nominate candidates for People’s Councils at different levels,” he said, adding that they had understood that citizens age 21 and older could self-nominate as council members.
Trung said that police also questioned him about other Facebook groups and whether he was connected to the U.S.-based Viet Tan opposition party, a group designated by Vietnamese authorities as a terrorist organization, or Vietnamese rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, now living in exile in Germany.
A police officer slapped Trung on his head on his arrival at the police station, and another slapped him three times on his ears during questioning, Trung said, adding that his interrogators came from three separate security departments and refused his request to see a lawyer.
Speaking to RFA, Trung said that the five days of questioning had left him anxious and scared, and that he had been asked at the end to sign a document written by his interrogators testifying that he had worked with them voluntarily and had not been physically or mentally harmed.
“I also had to promise to ‘work with them’ again if they asked me to, and I had to promise to write my stories in future in an ‘honest and objective manner,’” Trung said.
“Those five days were so stressful that I decided just to sign all those papers so that I could return home,” he said.
Trung’s five days of detention violated Vietnamese law, which stipulates that police cannot temporarily detain anyone without a temporary detention warrant unless they provide in writing a specific reason to the person in detention and their family.
Temporary detention should also not last more than 12 hours unless “absolutely necessary” and must not last longer than 24 hours, Vietnamese law says.
During the past three months, police have arrested two other self-nominated assembly candidates, Tran Quoc Khanh and Le Trong Hung, both from Hanoi, for “disseminating anti-State materials,” even though the central government has openly discussed an initiative to “open doors wider for self-nominated candidates.”