Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for January 25-31, 2021: IJAVN Vice President Nguyen Tuong Thuy Refuses Appeal His 11-year Imprisonment

Defend the Defenders | January 31, 2021


Vice President Nguyen Tuong Thuy of the unsanctioned professional group Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN) has followed President Dr. Pham Chi Dung to deny his right of appealing his unfair sentence given by the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City in the first-instance hearing on January 5.

He reportedly refused to submit his appeal after police officers had requested him to follow their instructions in writing an appeal letter. The 71-year-old blogger was said to tear up his appeal letter after police officers requested him to re-write it before submitting.

After refusing to submit his appeal, he was taken to Bo La prison camp in Binh Duong province where he would stay shortly before being transferred to another prison camp where he will serve his 11-year imprisonment. It is likely Dr. Dung has been moved from Chi Hoa temporary detention center to the same prison camp after he announced his decision not to appeal his 15-year imprisonment, the most severe prison term imposed under Article 117 for decades.

As Defend the Defenders reported, on January 5, Dr. Dung, Mr. Thuy and IJAVN’s young member  Le Huu Minh Tuanwere convicted of “conducting anti-state propaganda” for their critical writing and participation in the organization and sentenced to a combined total of 37 years in prison and nine years of probation. Only Mr. Tuan appealed the court’s decision while the remaining two denied their right, stating they had lost their trust in receiving a fair trial in Vietnam’s judicial system.

Meanwhile, prominent democracy campaigner and human rights defender Tran Huynh Duy Thuc continues his hunger strike in the 10th week in Prison camp No. 6 in Nghe An. His health has worsened but he is unlikely to stop fasting in his bid to pressure Vietnam’s authorities to review his case.

Authorities in An Diem prison camp in the central province of Quang Nam continue their discipline measure against prisoner of conscience Hoang Duc Binh, who is serving a 14-year imprisonment in the prison. Binh has not been permitted to meet with his family since October last year after he refused to wear the prison’s uniform printed with letters for Criminal.

During the 13th National Congress of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam held in Hanoi on January 25-February 1, authorities in Hanoi and other localities have been maintaining close surveillance on local activists and land petitioners, sending plainclothes agents to station near their private residences all day and night to prevent them from going out or following them at close distances.

Authorities in Hanoi also sent plainclothes agents to maintain surveillance in Dong Tam commune and near the private house as well as the tomb of late local leader Le Dinh Kinh who was killed by police during the raid of 3,000 riot police in the commune in the early hours of January 9 last year. The move aimed to follow people who came to mark the one-year universary of his murder.

===== January 25 =====

Petitioners Dispersed, Activists Watched by Police as Vietnam Party Congress Begins

RFA: Petitioners calling for help from Vietnam’s government in resolving complaints over land grabs and other injustices have been detained in advance of a major Communist Party Congress beginning in the capital Hanoi on Monday, sources say.

Independent journalists and other democracy advocates are also being kept under surveillance by police as Party meetings get under way.

The detentions of petitioners came as authorities in Hanoi continued to tighten security in the city ahead of the ruling Communist Party’s 13th National Congress, a meeting held every five years to select top leaders and approve economic policies for the next five years, and scheduled to run this year from Jan. 25 to Feb. 2.

For further reading: Petitioners Dispersed, Activists Watched by Police as Vietnam Party Congress Begins

===== January 27 =====

Supporters Mark Anniversary of Vietnamese Land Activist’s Death Under Watchful Eye of Police

RFA: On Wednesday (January 27), Vietnamese activists marked the one-year anniversary of the death of elderly land petitioner Le Dinh Kinh, who was shot and killed by authorities during a deadly land-rights clash, as plainclothes police loitered about keeping close tabs on the gathering, according to the slain activist’s family member.

Dong Tam village elder Le Dinh Kinh, 84, was killed during the early-morning Jan. 9 raid on the village by 3,000 security officers intervening in a long-running dispute over a military airport construction site about 25 miles south of the capital, Hanoi.

Le’s granddaughter-in-law, Nguyen Thi Duyen, told RFA’s Vietnamese Service plainclothes officers hung back, taking photos of the nearly three-quarters of Dong Tam villagers who came to burn incense and pay their respects to the deceased land campaigner.

“Tens of plainclothes police kept a close watch and took photos of those who came to our home,” she said. “They didn’t threaten anyone—they were only keeping watch at the village gate, in front of my house, and at Le Dinh Kinh’s tomb from yesterday until today.”

“When we went to our grandfather’s tomb to burn incense, they also followed us to take photos,” she added.

Le’s sons, Le Dinh Chuc and Le Dinh Cong, were both sentenced to death Sept. 14 for murder in connection with the deaths of three police officers who were killed in last year’s clash when they were attacked with petrol bombs and fell into a concrete shaft while running between two houses.

They were among a group of 29 villagers tried for their roles in the incident. Other punishments handed out by the court included a life sentence and other sentences ranging from six years to 15-months’ probation.

Medical condition in jail

On Wednesday, Duyen told RFA that defense attorney Le Van Hoa visited her father-in-law Le Dinh Cong in prison three days ago and said that he was suffering from atopic dermatitis, or eczema, and had developed a fungal infection on his scalp and abdomen but had yet to receive effective treatment from prison officials.

Le Van Hoa said the death row inmate had requested medicine from his family members.

Despite his medical condition, Duyen said that her father-in-law is “in good spirits” and had told Hoa he plans to “fight until the end.”

Five of the group’s members—the brothers, Le Dinh Doanh, Bui Viet Hieu and Nguyen Quoc Tien—have appealed the ruling, saying the sentences were too harsh for first time offenders. Court officials have yet to set a date for the review of their cases or provide any updates to their legal team and family members.

Four others who had raised their concern online and with foreign governments were arrested. Among them were Can Thi Theu and her two sons Trinh Ba Tu and Trinh Ba Phuong, three publishers of a citizen journalist report on the Dong Tam clash that came out a month after the incident and contradicted the official view.

While all land in Vietnam is ultimately held by the state, land confiscations have become a flashpoint as residents accuse the government of pushing small landholders aside in favor of lucrative real estate projects, and of paying too little in compensation to farming families displaced by development.

===== January 29 =====

IJAVN Vice President Nguyen Tuong Thuy Refuses to Appeal His Lengthy Imprisonment

Defend the Defenders:  Vice President of the unsanctioned professional group Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN) Nguyen Tuong Thuy has refused to appeal his sentence of 11 years in prison and three years of probation given by the Trial Panel of the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City during the first-instance hearing on January 5, Defend the Defenders has learned.

According to his lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng who got information from a person also jailed in the same detention facility, on January 15, Mr. Thuy was about to submit his appeal while being held in Phan Dang Luu temporary detention center under the authority of the HCM City Police Department. However, he got angry when police officers insisted that he re-write the appeal letter following their instructions.

Disagreeing with their attitude, Mr. Thuy reportedly tore his appeal letter and went back to his cell, giving up his right to contest the sentence imposed on him on the allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code.

On January 29, his wife Pham Thi Lan went to Phan Dang Luu temporary detention center to meet him and supply him with some food stuff as promised by police. She was informed that he had been transferred to Bo La prison camp in Binh Duong province where he would be held shortly before being taken to another prison camp where he will servehis sentence.

When Mrs. Lan when to Bo La prison camp, the prison’s authorities told her that she could not meet him but only send money for him to purchase additional food and stuff from the prison’s canteen, which reportedly sells goods at two-three times above market prices.

It is likely IJAVN’s President Dr. Pham Chi Dung has also been transferred to Bo La prison camp after he gave up his right to appeal his unfair sentence. Only Mr. Le Huu Minh Tuan, one of the trio sentenced in the same case, has submitted his appeal. Like Mr. Thuy, Tuan was also sentenced to 11 years in prison and three years of probation. There is a little chance for Tuan to get freed or receive a lighter sentence in the appeal hearing given the fact that a few activists have been released or got prison sentences reduced in their appeals.

Both Dr. Dung and Mr. Thuy have no trust in Vietnam’s judicial system and they have no hope for fair hearing, so they have denied their right of appeal, according to their families.

After their trial on January 5, the domestic dissent and the international community have strongly condemned Vietnam’s communist regime, demanding Hanoi to drop their charges and release them as well as other prisoners of conscience immediately and unconditionally.

Related article from RFA: Jailed Vietnamese RFA Blogger Refuses to Appeal Sentence, Destroys Petition Form