Hanoi-based Pro-democracy Campaigner Nguyen Trung Linh Charged with “Conducting Anti-state Propaganda”

Pro-democracy activist Nguyen Trung Linh calls for release of HRDs Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thu Ha

Defend the Defenders, July 9, 2018


Pro-democracy campaigner Nguyen Trung Linh has been charged with “Making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code, according to a local activist.

Anti-corruption campaigner and school teacher Do Viet Khoa told Defend the Defenders that he has learned this information from the older brother of Mr. Linh.

Defend the Defenders couldn’t contact Mr. Linh’s brother for verification.

Many activists in Hanoi have tried to contact with Mr. Linh’s wife to get information about him but failed.

Mr. Linh, who posted a statement on his Facebook page on May 25 to call for peaceful demonstrations to protest China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea), was arrested by security forces in late May.

A retired activist said Mr. Linh was arrested on May 27 afterhe appeared in centralHanoi while his neighbors told his friends that the arrest was made in his private apartment on May 28.

The Czech-trained engineer is held in the Temporary detention facility No. 1 under the authority of the Hanoi police which conducted his arrest and searchedhis apartment in Hai Ba Trung district.

Mr. Linh was born in 1967 in the central province of Thanh Hoa and sent to the Czech Republic in mid 1980s to study in a bachelor program. Influenced by the democratic revolution in Eastern Europe in the early 1990s, he worked for a student outlet established by Vietnamese pro-democracy activists in Prague.

After returning in Vietnam in mid 1990s, he was detained by security forces but no charge was made. Later, he was arrested again because of his pro-democracy writing and attempts to establish an organization with other activists. In order to avoid being prosecuted, his family claimed that he had a mental disease, after which he was sent to a mental health facility for a short time instead of jail.

Mrs. Ho Thi Lan, his sister-in-law,said that in the past 20 years, Mr. Linh has been under constant persecution from Hanoi security forces who have maintained close surveillance on him. He has been arrested and placed in detention without being charged many times, she said.

He has been assaulted many times by police who were assigned to follow him, when he met with other activists or took his two children to school, Lan said, adding that in one of these cases they knocked down his motorbike, causing serious head injuries to his older son.

Along with assaulting him, police threatened to take him back to mental health facilities if he continued to write to advocate multi-party democracy.

Hanoi police also disseminated the wrong information saying he is suffering from a mental disease in a bid to isolate him from other activists and people in his area. They have also blocked his economic activities.

Police have also threatened his relatives in order to prevent them from speaking out to support him, Lan noted, adding as a result, few people understand his situation.

Linh had called for the establishment of opposition parties, but police detected and arrested him, she said.

Along with using controversial articles in the national security provisions to arrest and convict political dissidents, Vietnam’s security forces have used other measures to persecute activists, including abduction, torture, close surveillance, and blockage of economic activities.Many political dissidents have been arrested and placed in long detention without being charged and tried.

The detention of Mr. Linh is part of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on local political dissidents, human rights defenders, social activists and bloggers. Around 80 activists have been arrested and convicted in the past few years.

Mr. Linh has been among six activists detained so far this year. Others are Vu Van Hung, member of the Brotherhood for Democracy, Do Cong Duong, anti-corruption activist, and university official Nguyen Duy Son, Facebooker Nguyen Van Quang and independent journalist Le Anh Hung. Duong, Son and Le Anh Hung were charged with “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the 2015 Penal Code while Vu Van Hung was sentenced to one year in prison for inflicting injuries in a trumped-up politically motivated case in early January.

According to current Vietnamese law, thoseaccused under Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code may face imprisonment of up to 20 years.

In the last two years, a number of activistshave beensentenced to between three and ten years on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code which was amended to Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code.