The 88 Project, May 18, 2017: May 21, 2017 marks two months since blogger Phan Kim Khánh’s arrest under Art. 88 of the Vietnamese Criminal Code. Khánh’s family’s effort to hire defense lawyers for him has been thwarted. They had reached out to lawyer Hà Huy Sơn, who agreed to defend Khánh. On April 10, 2017, however, Hà Huy Sơn received two documents from Thái Nguyên province police: one was a handwritten document from Khánh, dated April 7, in which he “confessed” to his crime and refused to have a defense lawyer; the second was a document from Thái Nguyên province police refusing to grant Ha Huy Son the defense counsel certificate, based on Khánh’s refusal to have a lawyer.
Coercion by government authorities to obtain an admission of guilt in pre-trial detention happens often. According to Amnesty International’s 2016 report “Prisons within Prisons: Torture and ill-treatment of prisoners of conscience in Viet Nam,” the prisoners of conscience who were interviewed for the report “experienced torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment while in custody, temporary detention and as convicted persons. In many cases, abuses were more common in the period before conviction as authorities applied pressure to extract a confession or admission of wrongdoing.” (p. 22) Recently, Nguyễn Văn Hóa, another young citizen journalist who was arrested in January, also “confessed” to his crime and refused to have a lawyer.
Coercing confessions is a blatant deprivation of vulnerable individuals’ civil rights. The detainees’ refusal to receive legal representation under the secretive conditions of incommunicado detention cannot be legally valid. If any, such refusal should be seen as a sign of the pressure political detainees are subjected to in incommunicado detention, not as evidence against themselves.
Khánh’s family believes in Khánh’s innocence and remains committed to advocating for Khánh’s release. They are hoping, once the investigation period is over and the family can meet with him, they can provide him emotional and moral support.
Khánh is currently detained at Thái Nguyên province police Detention Center. His current temporary detention order will expire on July 18, 2017.
The 88 Project considers Phan Kim Khánh a political prisoner who was arrested because of his peaceful activities to promote the freedom of press and democracy to fight corruption. He is a young, talented, and public service-minded individual who should be encouraged to participate in political and social activities – not be silenced by the government.
© 2017 The 88 Project