HCM City Court to Hold First-instance Hearing to Try 8 Members of Hiến Pháp Group on July 31, 21 Months after Their Arrests

Defend the Defenders, July 14, 22020


The People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City has decided to hold the first-instance hearing against eight members of the unregistered group named Hiến Pháp (Constitution) on July 31 after a number of postpones due to Covid-19 outbreak and other reasons.

The open trial will be held in the headquarters of the city’s People’s Court 21 months after detention of activists named Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hanh, Hoang Thi Thu Vang, Doan Thi Hong, Ngo Van Dung, Do The Hoa, Le Quy Loc, Tran Thanh Phuong, and Ho Dinh Cuong. They were kidnapped by security forces in Ho Chi Minh City in early September 2018 and charged with “disruption of security” under Article 118 of the country’s Criminal Code.

Police held them incommunicado for months without informing their families and continued keeping them isolated from outside for around one year after their families found them being imprisoned.

The first two of the defendants, Ms. Hanh and Mrs. Vang are charged with Clause 1 of Article 118 and face imprisonment of between seven and 15 years in prison while the remaining six activists are accused of the allegation under Clause 2 of the same article with the risk of being sentenced to between two and seven years in jail if are convicted.

Hiến Pháp was established in 2017 with the aim to enhance civil rights among Vietnamese by disseminating the country’s Constitution approved by the communist-controlled parliament in 2013. The defendants, together with other members of the group were key figures participating in the mass demonstration in Saigon on June 10, 2018 in which tens of thousands of people from different social groups rallied on streets to protest two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security. The first is considered to favor Chinese investors to purchase land in Vietnam’s important places for the country’s security amid increasing concerns of Beijing’s intensifying aggressiveness in the East Sea (South China Sea) while the second which was approved by the communist-controlled parliament and became effective from January 1, 2018 is considered an effective tool to silence online government critics.

A few months ago, Ms. Hong, who was detained when her daughter was about two years old, informed her family that she was held in very severe conditions. Since being arrested, she has been under physical and mental torture constantly, according to the information she gave her older sister.

In mid-April, Mr. Dung and Mr. Loc were brutally beaten by police officers while being held in Phan Dang Luu temporary detention center under the authority of HCM City Police Department. Due to the severe injuries, both were taken to a hospital for urgent treatment for ten days.

Despite doing nothing special harmful for the country, Hiến Pháp group has been targetted by Vietnam’s communist regime. Two members of the group Pham Minh The and Huynh Truong Ca were convicted of “abusing democratic freedom” and “anti-state propaganda” with respective imprisonment of two years and five and half years in 2018-2019.Mr. The was released on July 10 this year, three months before his imprisonment term ends.