Three Vietnamese Activists Imprisoned on Thursday amid Increasing Crackdown on Local Dissent

Ms. Tran Thi Xuan at her trial on April 12, 2018

Defend the Defenders, April 12, 2018

Three activists were convicted in separate trials on Thursday in Vietnam amid ongoing intensified crackdown of the communist government on local dissent.

In the first-instance hearing of former prisoner of conscience Nguyen Viet Dung which last only three hours in the central province of Nghe An, the founder and president of the unsanctioned Vietnam Republican Party was sentenced to seven years in prison and five years under house arrest afterward. Dung was kidnapped by local plainclothes agents and later charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.

Meanwhile, the People’s Court of Ha Tinh held a trial hearing of Ms. Tran Thi Xuan, a senior member of the unsanctioned Brotherhood for Democracy, on allegation of “carrying out attempts to overthrow the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the 1999 Penal Code. In the open court without presence of the defendants’ relatives and lawyer, the judge gave her nine years in prison and five years of probation.

Ms. Xuan, 1976, has been kept incommunicado being arrested on October 17 last year. She has not been permitted to meet with her family or contact with a lawyer the family hired for her. Several months ago, police publicized a letter with her signature saying she would not need a lawyer for legal consultation and defense preparation.

During the trial, Xuan confessed of wrongdoings and begged for mercy, however, observers said she was fat and not in normal conditions which may be result of being drugged for long period.

Her detention came as the Brotherhood for Democracy became the main target of the ongoing crackdown of the Vietnamese government on local dissent. Since late 2015, Vietnam has arrested ten members of the online pro-democracy group, and convicted nine of them, mostly with heavy sentences of between seven and 15 years in prison.

Human rights activist Vu Van Hung, who was sentenced to one year in prison with a trumped-up politically motivated charge

Vu Van Hung, a former prisoner of conscience and member of the Brotherhood for Democracy, was the third activist being convicted today. After detentions of many senior members of the group, Vietnam’s security forces have targetted him and they arrested him on January 4 this year in a trumped-up case on which he was accused of “inflicting injuries” under Article 134 of the 2015 Penal Code.

In the trial which last few hours without presence of his lawyer, the People’s Court of Thanh Xuan district, Hanoi sentenced him to one year in prison.

Mr. Nguyen Viet Dung at the trial on April 12, 2018

On April 12, Amnesty International issued a statement regarding the trials of Mr. Nguyen Viet Dung and Mr. Vu Van Hung, in which the London-based human rights organization said “Nguyen Viet Dung is a brave young activist in a country where human rights are under attack. This man has already served time in prison for his peaceful activism once before. To ensure there is no repeat of this injustice, the authorities of Nghe An province must immediately drop all charges against Dũng and release him immediately” and “Vu Van Hung is a prisoner of conscience who has been held in pre-trial detention on trumped-up, politically motivated charges for several months. He has done nothing but peacefully defend human rights and should never have been detained in the first place.”

Amid growing social disatisfaction due to systemic corruption, serious environmental pollution, greater gap between the rich and the poor as well as the government’s weak response to China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea), Vietnam has intensified crackdown on local dissent in a bid to prevent formation of opposition parties and discourage people from involving in politics.

With the election of the new leadership in 2016 with many police generals being promoted to senior posts of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam and the state, Vietnam has little tolerance to government critics.

Since the begining of 2017, Vietnam has arrested at least 45 activists and convicted around 30 of them, sentencing them to lengthy imprisonments of between six and 16 years in prison. As many as 14 activists have been convicted and jailed so far this year.

Among jailed human rights defenders are human rights attorney Nguyen Van Dai, the co-founder of the Brotherhood for Democracy, well-known blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (aka Mother Mushroom) and labor activist Hoang Duc Binh.

According to Amnesty International, Vietnam is holding 97 prisoners of conscience while the Now!Campaign, a coalition consisting of 15 NGOs including Defend the Defenders, BPSOS and Civil Rights Defenders, the number of prisoners of conscience is 168 as of March 31.

Vietnam always denies of holding prisoners of conscience but only law violators.