Well-known Human Rights Activists Can Thi Theu and Her Son Trinh Ba Tu Placed in Hard Prison Conditions Amid Hot Weather after Brave Objection in First-instance Hearing

Four HRDs from Duong Noi (from left): Trinh Ba Tu, Can Thi Theu, Trinh Ba Phuong, and Nguyen Thi Tam (RFA)

Defend the Defenders, July 21, 2021


As a revenge of their brave behavior during their first-instance hearing on May 5, authorities in Vietnam’s northern province Hoa Binh have imprisoned well-known human rights advocates Mrs. Can Thi Theu and her second son Mr. Trinh Ba Tu in hard prison conditions, Defend the Defenders has learned.

According to their family, Theu and Tu have been kept in tiny isolated cells in a temporary detention facility under the authority of the Hoa Binh Police Department since being convicted of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code more than two months ago. They were placed in small closed cells without ventilators or fans amid the hot summer weather in Vietnam’s northern region with the temperature goes above 40 Celsius degrees most of the daytime, her daughter Trinh Thi Thao told Defend the Defenders.

When the family questioned about the inhumane treatment against the 59-year-old mother and the 32-year-old son, the Hoa Binh Police Department and the detention facility said they act under instruction of the Ministry of Public Security.

It is worth noting that prisoner of conscience Dao Quang Thuc was also held inhumanely for months in this detention facility and he died shortly after being moved in the Gia Trung Prison camp.

The family has sent petitions to many state agencies including the Ministry of Public Security to question the inhumane treatment against the mother and the son, however, they have not received responses from them.

Mrs. Theu, who was imprisoned twice for a total 35 months in the 2014-2018 period for protesting Hanoi’s authorities’s seizure of farming land from her family and other farmers in Duong Noi commune, Ha Dong district, was arrested on June 24 last year together with her two sons Tu and his older brother Trinh Ba Phuong. The trio was charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” for their advocacy for lan rights, human rights, and multi-party democracy, especially their support for land petitioners in Dong Tam commune, Hoai Duc district, Hanoi, before and after the bloody attack of 3,000 riot policemen in the commune on January 9, 2020 in which police brutally killed local spiritual leader Le Dinh Kinh and arrested about 30 others most of whom later were sentenced to heavy imprisonment and two were given the capital punishment as they were found responsible for controversial deaths of three police officers during the raid.

During the trial on May 5, both Theu and her child said that they are innocent and did nothing wrong according to Vietnam’s Constitution and the international human rights treaties in which Vietnam is a signatory party. They reportedly also blamed the communist regimes for all the social unrest in the country, including the land grabbing nationwide.

Meanwhile, 36-year-old Phuong is still held incommunicado by the Hanoi Police Department, together with land petitioner Nguyen Thi Tam, who is also a human rights defender and being arrested on the same day on the same allegation. He reportedly keeps his right of silence during the 13 months of detention. Last week, he was permitted to meet with his lawyers to prepare for his defense in the first-instance hearing which may be held soon.

The family of Mrs. Tam said they have not been allowed to meet her in detention since the arrest in late June last year. The investigation ended and the trial against her would be carried out in coming weeks.

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.

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. Two days ahead of their trial, Human Rights Watch issued a statement urging Vietnam’s authoritarian regime to free them, saying Hanoi should not imprison those who tell the trust like Theu and her sons.

In order to ensure its absolute political dominance for long term, Vietnam’s authoritarian regime continues its crackdown on the local dissent after the 13th National Congress of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam in late January and the meaningless elections of the country’s rubber-stamped parliament and the People’s Councils at the provincial, district, and communal levels on May 23. Along with imprisoning well-known political dissidents and human rights defenders, Vietnam’s authoritarian regime has also put behind bars many Facebookers who have limited influence in social media.

So far this year, Vietnam has arrested 19 activists, raising the number of prisoners of conscience to 261, according to Defend the Defenders’ latest statistics. Since the beginning of this year, the regime has convicted 19 activists, journalists, and Facebookers with a total imprisonment of 145 years and six months followed by 34 years of probation.