Prisoner of Conscience Nguyen Thi Tam Meets Lawyers for First Time Since Being Arrested in June Last Year, Trial Expected Soon
Defend the Defenders, July 23, 2021
Authorities in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi have allowed prisoner of conscience Nguyen Thi Tam to meet with her lawyer to prepare for her defense, according to her family.
She had been held incommunicado since her arrest on June 24, 2021 until July 20 when her lawyers were able to meet her in the Temporary Detention Center No. 1 operated by the Hanoi Police Department. She was reported to be mentally strong.
Tam, who twice was imprisoned for protesting illegal land grabbing of authorities of Hanoi and Ha Dong district in her Duong Noi commune, was alleged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code for her Facebook posts and support given to other land petitioners. The first-instance hearing is expected to be carried out soon and she faces imprisonment of between seven and 12 years.
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 activists and land petitioner Trinh Ba Phuong with the same allegation. Mr. Phuong has also been held incommunicado since the arrest. 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. On May 5, the People’s Court of Hoa Binh province convicted Mrs. Theu and Mr. Tu of “conducting anti-state propaganda” and sentenced each to eight years in prison and three years of probation. Their convictions were condemned internationally.
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.
In February this year, the UN’s Office of High Commissioner on Human Rights issued a statement saying the arrests 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 were arbitrary and requested Vietnam’s authoritarian regime to release them immediately and unconditionally. However, 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.
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