Profile

Truong Duy Nhat

Current Status: Sentenced to prison

Photo of Truong Duy Nhat

Other Names: Trương Duy Nhất

Date of Birth: January 31, 1964

Gender: M

Ethnicity: Kinh

Occupation: Journalist

Current Prison: T16 Detention Center, Hanoi

Areas of Activism:

  • Anti-corruption
  • Democracy
  • Freedom of expression
  • Human rights
  • Press

March 2020:

On March 9, 2020, the People’s Court of Ha Noi tried Truong Duy Nhat, a prominent dissident journalist, for the crime of “abusing his position and authority” in a land purchase case that had taken place a decade agoAt trial, Nhat said that the purchase of house at No. 82 Tran Quoc Toan Street, was in accordance with local regulations and was also reported to the leadership of Dai Doan Ket Newspaper. Since the newspaper could not afford to buy the entire house back in 1996, Nhat, with the authorization of the Editor-in-Chief, contacted Phan Van Anh Vu (“Vu Nhom”) and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with him in which Vu submitted the money required on behalf of Dai Doan Ket Newspaper. In return, Vu could own the house, but he had to let the newspaper use the second floor as its representative office. Nhat also insisted that he did not receive any incentive for the transaction. However, despite this and Nhat’s international support, the People’s Court of Ha Noi still sentenced him 10 years in prison.

His lawyer, Dang Dinh Manh, said that, “It seems that the court had already planned its verdict, as the trial took place very quickly, and ended with a heavy punishment being imposed.” At the end of the trial, Nhat offered thanks to his supporters. Radio Free Asia reported that he quoted poetry from dissenter Phan Chu Trinh, saying, “In a temporary setback, those who mend the sky do not let minor things get them down.” Truong Duy Nhat, who was previously imprisoned for his activism, was trying to apply for asylum in Thailand before he was abducted by Vietnamese public security forces in January 2019. The circumstances around his kidnapping, arrest, and charges in a ten-year old transaction, as well as his history of reporting on political and social issues, lead many to believe that the case against him is politically-motivated.

Details - Background, History of Activism.

Truong Duy Nhat is from Da Nang province.

Profile photo source: Teu Blog via The Vietnamese

Truong Duy Nhat worked as a journalist for state-run media before leaving to start his own blog, “A Different Viewpoint” (Một Góc Nhìn Khác). In 2013, he was arrested for this blog, which often featured content critical of the state, and was later sentenced to two years in prison on charges of “abusing democratic freedoms” under Article 258 of the 1999 Criminal Code. He was released in 2015. Prior to his most recent arrest, he had recently been working as a Vietnamese-language contributor for Radio Free Asia.

January 26, 2019: kidnapped from Thailand after attempting to claim asylum

  • Detention
  • Forced disappearance
  • Persecution while seeking asylum abroad
January 26-28, 2019
Public security
Bangkok Future Park mall, Thailand (map)

  • freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention
  • humane treatment in detention
  • freedom of movement
  • Committee to Protect Journalists
  • US government
  • Amnesty International
  • Reporters Without Borders

Former political prisoner Truong Duy Nhat went missing on January 26, the day after he attempted to claim asylum status in Thailand after fleeing Vietnam in the weeks prior. Some sources say he was abducted from a popular mall in Bangkok.

Nhat allegedly left Vietnam for Thailand after he found out that he faced risk of re-arrest. Some say Nhat potentially had information that could be damaging to the Vietnamese Prime Minister and feared that Nhat was abducted by Vietnamese agents. Thai officials said they did not have a record of Nhat’s entry into the country but were investigating his disappearance. Truong Duy Nhat’s wife, Cao Thi Xuan Phuong, appealed to the Vietnamese government and international community for help in finding her husband.

After being missing for almost two months, Truong Duy Nhat was later located -- in prison in Vietnam. His family confirmed on March 20 that he was indeed arrested and brought back to Vietnam; he was put in jail on January 28, after attempting to seek asylum in Thailand just days prior, and is currently imprisoned at T16 temporary detention facility in Hanoi.

**

It is now believed that Thai authorities assisted Vietnam in the kidnapping of Truong Duy Nhat in January, according to information obtained by Amnesty International. Nhat was attempting to seek asylum in Thailand, when he was abducted and returned to Vietnam. This is indicative of a larger pattern of cooperation between Asian authorities to detain and deport activists in coordinated forced disappearances. Local officers detained Nhat and stayed with him for a few hours before driving him to meet with Vietnamese officials. 

The US supported the investigation that Thailand launched in response to the disappearance. Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists all called for immediate investigation into Nhat’s disappearance.

Arrested January 28, 2019. Sentenced to 10 years in prison. Expected Release is January 28, 2029.

January 28, 2019
T16 temporary detention facility in Hanoi (map)
March 9, 2020
Ngo Anh Tuan
10 years in prison
January 28, 2029
  • freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention
  • liberty and security of the person
  • freedom of expression
  • fair trial
  • Committee to Protect Journalists
  • US government
  • Amnesty International
  • One Free Press Coalition
  • Reporters Without Borders
  • Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

After being missing for almost two months, Truong Duy Nhat was later located -- in prison in Vietnam. His family confirmed on March 20 that he was indeed arrested and brought back to Vietnam; he was put in jail on January 28, after attempting to seek asylum in Thailand just days prior, and is currently imprisoned at T16 temporary detention facility in Hanoi.

His wife attempted to meet with him there but was refused a visit. Some observers allege Vietnam violated its own law in arresting Nhat -- they did not inform the family of the arrest nor issue an arrest warrant.

April 2019:

Authorities denied Truong Duy Nhat supplies. Nhat, a blogger and former political prisoner, was kidnapped from Thailand in January where he was attempting to seek asylum, and was later located in prison in Hanoi. Nhat's wife, Cao Thi Ngoc Phuong, and writer Xuan Nguyen Pham attempted to visit Nhat on April 22 but were barred from seeing him and could only leave some money for him, not supplies. However, in March, his wife was able to leave some supplies for him. A prison official told them that there was an order prohibiting them from sending supplies. She tried to investigate the matter further, but could not obtain more information about that order. 

June 2019:

The Ministry of Public Security opened up a case against Truong Duy Nhat for an alleged "fraudulent purchase of land." Police also searched Nhat's house. The search warrant was reported to be dated from January 16. Nhat was arrested on January 28.

July 2019:

On July 23, 2019, Mrs. Cao Thi Xuan Phuong, Truong Duy Nhat’s wife, went to see her husband at T16 prison in Hanoi. Nhat’s younger sister, Cuc, took a flight with her from Da Nang to Hanoi to visit as well. However, at the prison entrance, Cuc was stopped by the officers because the official invitation only named Phuong as a visitor. However, Phuong had signed a document at a previous visit requesting that Cuc be able to visit as well. During the meeting, Nhat told his wife about a change in his charge. He was earlier charged with “abusing position, authority to obtain public property,” but now the investigation police department is charging him with “abusing position, authority while in office,” due to their inability to charge him in an alleged case of land fraud. He denies all charges.

August 2019:

On August 8, 2019, the Department of Police Investigation announced that Truong Duy Nhat allegedly abused his position at Dai Doan Ket newspaper to help with a fraudulent purchase of land. His action is alleged to have made the state budget lose 13 billion VND. Earlier in the year, he was charged with “abusing position, authority to obtain public property,” but authorities changed the charged to “abusing position, authority while in office,” due to their inability to prove the property embezzlement act. He denies all charges against him. 

***

On August 28, 2019, lawyer Ngo Anh Tuan met (story in Vietnamese) with Truong Duy Nhat at T16 detention prison for the first time since Nhat's arrest. Tuan told Radio Free Asia that he went to see Nhat on August 26 but the guards didn’t allow the meeting to take place without the presence of investigation officers. Tuan returned on August 28 to meet Nhat under the presence of an investigation officer. Nhat was reported to be in good spirits, but the prison has been prohibiting the receipt of food from his family. Regarding the charge against him of “abusing position, authority while in office” (Art 356 of the 2015 Criminal Code) for his alleged involvement in a land fraud case, he said that the charges are unfounded and that he only followed authorization from others. Authorities have ended their investigation into Nhat and have recommended the case for prosecution. Nhat asked the authorities to return his personal assets, which were taken in Bangkok, Thailand. He asked Tuan to take pictures and save all the articles related to his case to read later and to bring him three law books.

September 2019:

On September 17, 2019, the state-owned newspaper Nguoi Lao Dong announced the complete indictment (article in Vietnamese) against Truong Duy Nhat. According to the indictment, Nhat signed papers to send to the People’s Committee of Da Nang city to buy a house in the center area of the city as a public asset to make it a representative office of the Dai Doan Ket newspaper. The People’s Committee of Da Nang city made a decision to sell the public asset at the address of 82 Tran Quoc Toan street, Hai Chau district, Da Nang city to Dai Doan Ket newspaper. Also according to the indictment, after getting the decision, Nhat had businessman Phan Van Anh Vu transfer the money to the state budget on the behalf of Dai Doan Ket newspaper, with the condition that the house would be in Vu's possession. Thus, it is alleged that Nhat abused his position at Dai Doan Ket newspaper to help with a fraudulent purchase of land, resulting in the state budget losing 300 million at the time, July 2004, which is equivalent to 13 billion VND as of the discovery date of April 17, 2018. Nhat is behind bars for the second time after being kidnapped by Vietnamese security agents in Thailand in January while attempting to seek asylum there. Nhat allegedly left Vietnam for Thailand after he found out that he faced risk of re-arrest. Some say Nhat potentially had information that could be damaging to the Vietnamese Prime Minister. 

We wrote analysis of the indictment here, including how Nhat's case raises questions regarding Vietnamese land law and why the charge against him is politically-motivated.

**

Update:

Truong Duy Nhat's current lawyer, Dang Dinh Manh, told Radio Free Asia that the authorities might intentionally put up barriers for Manh in his process of trying to defend Nhat. Manh reported that authorities are trying to move the venue of Nhat's trial from Da Nang province to Ha Noi, which he argues is illegal. Authorities also forced Manh and Nhat to reschedule a planned meeting. 

February 2029:

The People’s Court of Ha Noi City announced that the trial against journalist Truong Duy Nhat will be held on February 28, 2020. However, up until this point, only attorney Dang Dinh Manh has received the Court’s decision on the first-instance trial, while attorney Ngo Anh Tuan has yet to receive any official update from the court, resulting in his inability to prepare for the trial on time. In addition, as the coronavirus pandemic is yet to be controlled, the attorneys requested the court to postpone this trial. Attorney Le Cong Dinh also notes that the People’s Court of Ha Noi City has no jurisdiction over the case, since the alleged crime was committed in Da Nang, not Ha Noi. He asserts that the judgment could be considered null and void. 

***

February 2020:

Truong Duy Nhat's trial, originally scheduled for February 28, was rescheduled to March 9, due to the absence of lawyers and concerned parties. The decision to reschedule was announced 10 minutes into the trial. As we reported in our previous newsletter, one of Truong Duy Nhat’s lawyers, attorney Ngo Anh Tuan, had not received any official notice about the trial from the court, resulting in his inability to prepare for the trial on time. And as the coronavirus pandemic is yet to be controlled, the attorneys requested the court to postpone this trial. Right after the rescheduling announcement, the court clerk served the summons to attorney Ngo Anh Tuan to attend the trial on March 9.

Once he was located, several human rights groups called for clarity in the case, as well as for Nhat's current status and his immediate release, and information on any possible role that Thai authorities played in the alleged abduction.

May 2019:

Twenty-five members of the US Congress sent a letter to the US Secretary of State urging the US to press for better protections for freedom of expression in Vietnam, citing Vietnam's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The letter highlighted the cases of imprisoned journalists Nguyen Van Hoa and Le Anh Hung and blogger Truong Duy Nhat.

June 2019:

Amnesty International released an Urgent Action for Truong Duy Nhat, who was forcibly returned to Vietnam while attempting to seek asylum in Thailand. They called on Thai authorities to investigate his kidnapping, which they are now believed to have assisted in facilitating. 

On June 25, 2019, the OHCHR Asia made public a joint communication to the Thai and Vietnamese governments on Truong Duy Nhat and Bach Hong Quyen, in which UN human rights experts expressed concerns about the two activists’ arbitrary arrest, in particular, the arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, and subsequent forced repatriation of Truong Duy Nhat, and the surveillance and intimidation of Bach Hong Quyen. The communication can be read here.

August 2019:

The One Free Press Coalition of media organizations released their updated list of The 10 Most Urgent Press Freedom Cases Around the World. On the list, they named Vietnamese blogger and former political prisoner Truong Duy Nhat. Nhat was kidnapped, allegedly with the help of Thai forces, while trying to claim asylum in Bangkok in January; he was missing for several weeks and later located in prison in Hanoi.

Vietnamese blogger who vanished in Thailand jailed in Hanoi, Channel News Asia, March 21, 2019

Vietnam Broke Its Own Laws in Arrest of Blogger Spirited from Thailand-Experts, Radio Free Asia, March 22, 2019

Detained RFA Blogger Not Allowed to Receive Supplies in Prison From Wife, Radio Free Asia, April 23, 2019

US Lawmakers Urge Greater Push For Vietnam Press Freedoms, Radio Free Asia, May 29, 2019

Vietnamese Police Search Home of Jailed RFA Blogger Truong Duy Nhat in ‘Land Fraud’ Investigation, Radio Free Asia, June 10, 2019

Thai Police Helped Vietnam Abduct RFA Blogger: Rights Group, Radio Free Asia, June 21, 2019

Thailand: Authorities must investigate abduction of Vietnamese journalist, Amnesty International, June 21, 2019

RFA Blogger Truong Duy Nhat Faces New Charges in Vietnam, Radio Free Asia, July 25, 2019

The 10 Most Urgent Press Freedom Cases Around the World, Fortune, August 1, 2019

Blogger Trương Duy Nhất bị truy tố vì bán đất công giá rẻ cho Vũ “nhôm”, Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, August 8, 2019

Detained RFA Blogger in Vietnam Has First Meeting With Lawyer, Radio Free Asia, August 29, 2019

Blogger/Nhà báo độc lập Trương Duy Nhất được gặp luật sư, Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, August 29, 2019

Investigation against Former POC Truong Duy Nhat Completed, His Case Transferred to Procuracy, Defend the Defenders, August 29, 2019

RFA Blogger Formally Indicted in Vietnam for ‘Abuse of Power,' Radio Free Asia, September 17, 2019

Update on Truong Duy Nhat Case: Indictment Issued, Raising Questions Regarding Vietnamese Land Law, The 88 Project, September 26, 2019

'Vile Political Revenge' Seen as RFA Blogger Receives 10-Year Jail Sentence in Vietnam, Radio Free Asia, March 9, 2020

Profile last updated: 2020-03-19 03:55:53

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