Activist Dinh Thi Thu Thuy Permitted to Meet Her Lawyers For First Time Nearly Eight Months after Being Arrested, Trial Expected Soon

Ms. Dinh Thi Thu Thuy arrested by police on April 18, 2020 (Tuoi Tre)



Defend the Defenders, December 3, 2020


Authorities in Vietnam’s southern province of Hau Giang have allowed local human rights defender and environmentalist Dinh Thi Thu Thuy to meet her lawyers for the first time seven and half months after her arrest in mid-April this year, her family informed Defend the Defenders.

Accordingly, on December 3, Saigon-based attorneys Nguyen Van Mieng and Trinh Vinh Phuc went to the Hau Giang temporary detention center under the authority of the province’s Police Department to meet her after their relentless efforts to request to meet their client.

The lawyers said her health is very poor due to incommunicado detention since her arrest on April 18. She wishes to meet her 9-year-old kid as well as other relatives more often. She was allowed to meet some relatives on November 5, more than a half year after being detained.

She was said to have not denied her posting on Facebook as well as having peaceful activities which aim to oppose the Vietnamese communist government’s plan to allow Chinese to rent land for 99 years, voice to protect the environment and report human rights abuse. However, she also claims that her activities are not anti-state ones as she just practices basic rights, including the right to the freedom of expression which are enshrined in the country’s Constitution 2013 and the international treaties Vietnam’s communist regime has signed and the country’s parliament ratified.

The police informed the lawyers that the investigation in her case was completed and the case was transferred to the province’s People’s Court. The first-instance hearing against her is likely to be held in early January next year.

Ms. Thuy, a 38-year-old engineer majoring in the environment, was arrested on allegation of “Making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 117 of the country’s Criminal Code. She faces imprisonment of between seven and 12 years in prison or even up to 20 years if she is convicted, according to the current Vietnamese law.

The local police said that Ms. Thuy has created a number of Facebook accounts to disseminate numerous articles to distort the communist regime’s policies and defame its leadership. She was also accused of criticizing the communist regime’s measures in dealing with COVID-19.

Thuy is an activist participating in the mass peaceful demonstration in Ho Chi Minh City on June 10, 2018 which aimed to protest two bills on Special Economic Zone and Cyber Security. The first seeks to favor Chinese investors while the two countries are disputing over the East Sea (South China Sea) while the second bill which became law in 2019 strives to silence online government critics. She was detained, beaten and interrogated, and fined with money before being released.

In recent years, she has been under constant persecution of the local police who often summoned her to their station for interrogation about her posts on Facebook.

Thuy’s family also informed Defend the Defenders that her father has also been fined VND2.5 million ($110) for a poem in which he mentioned former Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Chu Hao and police Major General Truong Gia Long. The first advocates for multi-party democracy and civil rights while the second once stated that a number of senior state officials of the communist regime are working as Chinese agents.

Thuy is among 58 activists being arrested so far this year, 21 of them were charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 or “Abusing democratic freedom under Article 331 of the Criminal Code.

Vietnam is holding at least 260 prisoners of conscience, 32 of them are held in pre-trial detention which may last more than two years, according to Defend the Defenders’ latest statistics.