Tran Van Bang received a summons dated February 25, 2022 by the Ho Chi Minh city public security, requesting him to be at the Investigating Agency Office (in District 1) on March 1. It is reported that he did not comply with the summons.
On March 1, state media reported that Ho Chi Minh city public security arrested Tran Van Bang at his house. He is accused of “storing, making, and posting online materials that propagandize, distort, and defame the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code.
According to state media, Bang’s Facebook posts had “intended to defy the government and negatively affect social security and order.” The authorities also declared that they searched his house and found “a number of books and materials containing anti-state information.”
Following Bang's arrest, one of his lawyers, Dang Dinh Manh, shared on his Facebook that Tran Van Bang signed a contract with the lawyers before his arrest. On March 5, lawyer Dang Dinh Manh confirmed that the registration to defend his client had been approved within 24 hours. It was unprecedented, as Vietnamese lawyers usually face difficulties in the registering procedures required by law enforcement.
On March 11, Tran Van Bang was transferred from the District 12 Detention Center to Chi Hoa prison without informing his family. The family only found out about the transfer on March 15 when they visited the detention center in District 12.
Facebooker Tran Van Bang, held in pretrial detention since his arrest in March 2022, told his family that his health had taken a turn for the worse with several symptoms such as yellow fluid in both ears, fluid in both eyes, and a growing lump in one part of his body. Bang said he needed medical attention. He also asked for help drafting a will. His lawyers, Nguyen Van Mieng and Dang Dinh Manh, requested that Bang be immediately taken to a hospital for treatment.
Bang was also allegedly facing extended investigation, according to his lawyer Dang Dinh Manh.
Tran Van Bang was allowed to see his lawyers for the first time since his arrest in March 2022, after the state concluded their investigation into his online activism. Even though his health has reportedly been deteriorating while in detention, he was only allowed to be examined by doctors after his lawyers sent a petition earlier in the month requesting that he receive medical help. It is not clear what the prognosis was.
Tran Van Bang's family reported that he lost 10 kilograms due to untreated health problems, bad food, and alleged poor prison conditions. According to his sister, Tran Thi Biet, Bang has a tumor in his lower stomach the size of about 20 centimeters. Doctors from 30/4 Hospital recommended surgery, but Bang would like to get a biopsy first to be certain whether it’s malignant. He also wants to make a will in case he doesn’t survive the surgery. Bang was very happy that his 91-year-old mother was able to visit him for the first time in over a year. He was reported to be in poor health but in good spirits.
In a trial that lasted less than three hours, Tran Van Bang was sentenced to eight years in prison for Facebook posts that were deemed to be “anti-state propaganda.” According to RFA: “Two diplomats, from the U.S. and France, were barred from attending the proceedings. They were made to wait in the courtyard until the trial’s conclusion. Family members, meanwhile, were allowed only to watch the proceedings on a television screen from another room in the courthouse. Bang’s brother, who declined to be named, told RFA that the audio of the broadcast was cut several times when the defense lawyer was speaking and was turned very low when Bang spoke in his own defense.”
Tran Van Bang’s initial lawyer, Dang Dinh Manh, has also been under investigation for potential violations of Article 331, “abusing democratic freedoms,” and withdrew from the case. Bang’s family said they retained a new lawyer, Tran Dinh Dung, on May 8, which left them little time to prepare for the defense.