Trial against HRDs Can Thi Theu and Her Younger Son Trinh Ba Tu Scheduled on May 5, Heavy Sentences Expected

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

Defend the Defenders, April 19, 2021


Vietnam’s authoritarian regime plans to hold the first-instance hearing on May 5 to try land rights activists and human rights defenders Can Thi Theu and her younger son Trinh Ba Tu on the allegation “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the country’s Criminal Code, according to her family.

Mrs. Do Thi Thu, the wife of Mrs. Theu’s older son Trinh Ba Phuong who has been held incommunicado in pre-trial detention for the same charge since their arrest in mid-June last year, informed Defend the Defenders that the trial against her mother-in-law and brother-in-law will be carried out by the People’s Court of Hoa Binh province in its headquarters.

Mrs. Theu’s family started their activism a decade ago when they objected to the Hanoi city’s authorities to grabbing their agricultural land at very low prices to give it to property developers. Due to their protest, the authorities have suppressed the families for years, including imprisoning Mrs. Theu twice and her husband Trinh Ba Khiem once with imprisonment of between 15 and 20 months in 2015-2018.

Along with taking part in democracy campaigns, the family has provided valuable assistance and advocacy for other victims of legal miscarriage as well as land petitioners whose number hits tens of thousands, especially farmers in Dong Tam commune, Hanoi before and after the bloody attack of around 3,000 riot policemen to the commune on January 9 last year in which police shot to death communal leader Le Dinh Kinh and arrested around 30 local farmers.

In order to suppress the support of local activists given for land petitioners in Dong Tam, Vietnam’s authorities arrested a number of people, including prominent political blogger and world-recognized human rights defender Pham Doan Trang, human rights advocate Nguyen Thuy Hanh who set up and managed the 50K Fund, and four human rights campaigners Theu, Phuong, Tu, and former prisoner of conscience Nguyen Thi Tam, all the four from Duong Noi commune, Ha Dong district, Hanoi.

Mrs. Theu and Mr. Tu were arrested on June 24, 2020 by the police of Ha Son Binh province while Mr. Phuong was detained by the Hanoi Police Department on the same day. The mother and the younger son were held incommunicado since their arrests until a few months ago when they were permitted to meet their lawyers to prepare for defense while Mr. Phuong has yet to be allowed to meet with his relatives or lawyers.

Since their arrests, many foreign governments and international human rights organizations have condemned the Vietnamese government’s acts and urged Hanoi to release them immediately and unconditionally. However, Hanoi claims that they were not arrested for their human rights activities but crime activities harmful for the regime.

The ruling Communist Party of Vietnam conducted its 13th National Congress on January 25-February 1 this year to select the country’s leadership for the next five years. With many conservative figures of the regime such as General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, former Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc now becoming state president, and Minister of Public Security To Lam, it is likely the crackdown on the political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders which has been intensified since late 2015 will continue.

Since the beginning of this year, Vietnam has arrested at least eight activists, mostly on controversial allegations in the National Security provisions of the Criminal Code. So far, it has convicted 11 activists and sentenced them to a total 84.5 years in prison and 15 years of probation. The toughest imprisonment of 15 years in prison and three years of probation was given to PhD. Pham Chi Dung, the president of the unregistered professional group Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam who was convicted of “conducting anti-state propaganda.”

Based on these facts, Defend the Defenders forecasts that Mrs. Theu and her son Mr. Tu would be convicted with lengthy imprisonments as the regime wants to eradicate all peaceful activities, including those advocating for victims of legal miscarriage.