Vietnam Authorities Strive to Delay Permission for Lawyers to Prepare Defense for Key Members of BFD

Human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai

Defend the Defenders, February 4, 2018

Vietnam’s authorities are striving to delay granting permission for lawyers to prepare defense for six key members of the unsanctioned Brotherhood for Democracy (BFD) who were prosecuted for subversion, a wife of one of detainee told Defend the Defenders.

Mrs. Vu Minh Khanh, the wife of prominent human rights attorney Nguyen Van Dai said so far, lawyers have not been granted permission to get access to the documents of the case nor meet with their clients who are hold at the B14 detention facility in Hanoi.

The investigation of the case ended on December 12 last year, and the Police Investigation Agency under the Ministry of Public Security handed over the investigation results to the Supreme People’s Court, advising to prosecute Mr. Dai, Mr. Nguyen Trung Ton, Mr. Pham Van Troi, Mr. Truong Minh Duc, Mr. Nguyen Bac Truyen and Ms. Le Thu Ha on allegation of “Carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.

The Supreme People’s Court requested the lawyers hired by the activists or their families to come together to the agency to work with it on permission, instead of asking one to submit the request on behalf of others, Mrs. Khanh said.

The court’s request is difficult for the lawyers since the lawyers are in different locations and have difficulties in finding a common suitable time for them and for the court to meet, Khanh said, adding both lawyers and the court are busy with other cases.

Mr. Dai has signed contracts to have three lawyers namely Nguyen Van Mieng and Doan Duyen Hai from Ho Chi Minh City and Ha Huy Son from Hanoi, but the court said the last one cannot be Dai’s lawyer because Son may be a witness of the case, Khanh said, adding in fact Mr. Son does not know any activities of her husband.

Authorities in B14 detention facility managed by the ministry have also strived to delay permission for the lawyers to meet with the jailed activists. They said that the attorneys may visit their clients on February 8, one week later than the time the lawyers requested.

From left to right: pro-democracy activists Pham Van Troi, Nguyen Bac Truyen, Nguyen Trung Ton and Pham Minh Duc

On January 29, the detained activists were allowed to meet with their wives in two different rooms divided by thick glass. Khanh said her husband’s health is not good as his skinn is not typical for people who are held in closed room for two years, with dark gray on his face.

Khanh said his husband is suffered from colon disease and he has not been provided with proper treatment in custody. In addition, he feels great pain due to the attack of plainclothes agents few days before being arrested on December 16, 2015.

In 2006, Dai founded the Committee for Human Rights in Vietnam, dedicating his life to civil empowerment through legal means with programs aimed at expanding legal networking, building capacity for future human rights defenders and increasing legal education by disseminating and authoring publications on civil and legal rights. He was arrested in 2007 and later sentenced to four years in prison and four years under house arrest on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code.

He was released in 2011 and two years later, he and other activists formed BFD, an online group working for multi-party democracy and human rights in Vietnam.

In late 2015, he and his assistant Le Thu Ha were arrested and charged with anti-state propaganda.

On July 30 last year, Vietnam arrested Pham Van Troi, Nguyen Trung Ton, Truong Minh Duc and Nguyen Bac Truyen, all of them are former prisoners of conscience and key members of BFD, and alleged them of subversion.

Vietnam’s authorities also added Dai and Ha with charge of subversion.

Hanoi is expected to try them soon.

According to the Vietnamese current law, these activists face life imprisonment and even death sentences if convicted.

The arrests of Dai and other activists have been condemned by many foreign governments including the US, Germany and France, numerous international human rights organizations and local activists. They have called on Vietnam’s communist government to release them immediately and unconditionally because the detained activists have done nothing wrong but exercised their basic rights enshrined in the country’s 2013 Constitution and international conventions in which Vietnam is a signatory party.

BFD is one of the main targets of Vietnam’s ongoing political crackdown on local dissents which started in late 2015 when the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam prepared for its 12th National Congress.

Last year, Vietnam arrested at least 45 activists and convicted 19 of them with hard sentences of between three and 16 years in prison. So far, 10 members of BFD have been arrested and nine of them were charged with subversion, one of many controversial articles in the Penal Code’s national security provisions which are often used to silence dissidents and human rights defenders as well as social activists and bloggers.