Jailed President of Vietnam Republic Party Meets with Lawyers to Prepare for Defense in Upcoming Trial

Mr. Nguyen Viet Dung and his friend Do Thanh Van were beaten by thugs after participating in peaceful anti-China protest on March 14, 2017

Defend the Defenders, March 22, 2018

Mr. Nguyen Viet Dung, the jailed founder and president of the unsanctioned Vietnam Republic Party, has been permitted to meet with his lawyers Ngo Anh Tuan and Nguyen Kha Thanh to prepare his defense in his trial scheduled on March 28.

The meeting, the first contact of Mr. Dung with his lawyers while in police custody, lasted about one hour in the Temporary detention facility under the authority of the Nghe An province’s Public Security Department on March 22.

According to the two lawyers, their client is healthy and confident of not guilty.

Dung had been held incommunicado since being kidnapped by plainclothes agents on September 27 last year and later Nghe An police announced his arrest on charge of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.

Last week, authorities in Nghe An informed lawyers Tuan and Thanh that Dung’s trial was set on March 28.

The trial may be postponed as lawyer Tuan asked the People’s Court of Nghe An to delay it because he will get married on that day. The court rejected the lawyer’s proposal but it may change its decision.

If convicted, Dung will face imprisonment of up to 20 years, according to the current Vietnamese law.

Dung was an excellent university student but not allowed to graduate due to his social activities. In 2014, Dung established the unregistered Vietnam Republican Party to fight for multi-party democracy and became its president. In April of the same year, he was arrested after participating in a peaceful demonstration on environmental issues in Hanoi. Later he was sentenced to 15 months in prison on allegation of causing public disorders under Article 245 of the 1999 Penal Code. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considered his detention arbitrary in its adopted opinion.

After being released in July 2015, Dung has continued to work to promote human rights and fight for multi-party democracy. He has been detained and beaten many times by plainclothes agents and uniformed police officers.

The arrest and charge of Mr. Dung are part of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on local activists amid increasing social dissatisfaction caused by systemic corruption, human rights violations, poor economic performance, serious environmental pollution, and weak response to China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea).

Since 2017, Vietnam has arrested at least 45 activists and convicted more than 20 activists with lengthy sentences between three and 14 years in prison on allegations under controversial articles of national security provisions in Penal Code.

The ruling Communist Party of Vietnam and its government have vowed to keep the nation under a one-party regime, and request security forces to prevent the formation of opposition parties.