Vietnam Free Expression Newsletter No. 14/2018 – Week of April 2-8
Above: Pham Van Troi (left), Nguyen Van Dai (center), and Nguyen Trung Ton (right) at their trial on April 5, 2018. Source: Vietnam News Agency/AFP
Greetings from The 88 Project! We are bringing you news, analysis, and actions regarding human rights and civil society in Vietnam during the week of April 2-8. On April 5, six activists were sentenced to a combined 66 years in prison, with four of the six receiving sentences of 10+ years. Nguyen Van Dai, Nguyen Trung Ton, Truong Minh Duc, and Nguyen Bac Truyen were sentenced to 15, 12, 12, and 11 years in prison, respectively. Le Thu Ha received nine years, and Pham Van Troi received seven. The trial has drawn international criticism. In addition, April 6 marked two years since the Formosa environmental disaster began in Vietnam; and this week, we highlight the profiles of a few of the many activists who have been targeted and jailed in recent years for their environmental activism. In international advocacy, Amnesty International has released a list of current political prisoners in Vietnam. In the news, read about Mai Khoi and her perspectives on art in authoritarian countries, as well an analysis by The Vietnamese of Article 79, the Criminal Code provision used to jail Nguyen Van Dai and his co-defendants. Coming up this week, three more activists face trial in Vietnam: Nguyen Van Tuc, a member of the Brotherhood for Democracy, Nguyen Viet Dung, founder of the Vietnam Republican Party, and Vu Van Hung, a former political prisoner and teacher. Please take action for the defendants from the April 5 trial to call for their immediate and unconditional release from prison.
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HUMAN RIGHTS & CIVIL SOCIETY
On April 5, in a one-day trial, six activists, whose backgrounds range from defending religious freedom, to environmental rights, to multi-party democracy, were sentenced to a combined 66 years in prison and 17 years of house arrest under Article 79 of the 1999 Criminal Code. Five of the activists are key members of the pro-democracy group, The Brotherhood for Democracy. All have been known to support political prisoners and their families and advocate for human rights.
Dai’s colleague, Le Thu Ha (top right), the only woman of the group, was sentenced to nine years in prison and two years of house arrest. She served as the secretary of the Brotherhood for Democracy and also founded the independent news channel Luong Tam TV. Read Le Thu Ha’s full profile and the appeal for assistance for her family here.
Pham Van Troi (bottom) received seven years of prison time and one year of house arrest. He is a writer and long-time activist who was imprisoned under Article 88 from 2008 to 2012.
The Vietnamese government continues to deny the existence of political prisoners in the country.
NEWS & ANALYSIS
From Nguyễn Văn Đài’s April 5, 2018 Trial – What Constitutes “Overthrowing the People’s Government” in Vietnam?: “Because of this ambiguity per se in its language, Article 79 had faced strong criticism from the international community over the years, especially during the last Vietnam’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in January 2014. Critics continue pointing out, that along with Articles 88 and 258 of the Penal Code, the government has used these criminal provisions almost exclusively against political dissidents and pro-democracy activists, taking advantage of the vague language of these codes to criminalize peaceful protests and suppress political dissent. Facing such international pressure during the 2014 UPR, Vietnam agreed to amend Article 79, and they did, in 2015. However, except for some minor, cosmetic changes such as the number of the code section from 79 to 109, and adding a category for those who are ‘preparing to commit the crime’ with the punishment ranging from one to five years imprisonment, the remaining of the ‘new’ Article 109 is taken verbatim from Article 79.”
After the severe trial of six activists on April 5, three more activists face trial in the coming week.
Nguyen Van Tuc goes to trial on April 10. A Brotherhood for Democracy member and former political prisoner, he has been detained for seven months without trial. He will be tried under Article 79 in Thai Binh province. He has been active in human rights, pro-democracy, and maritime sovereignty activism.
Nguyen Viet Dung will be tried on April 12 in Nghe An province. Dung, an engineer, is the founder and president of the unsanctioned Vietnam Republican Party. A former political prisoner, he has been detained since September 27, 2017, and will be tried under Article 88 of the 1999 Criminal Code; he faces up to 20 years in prison.
Vu Van Hung has a trial set for April 12 in Hanoi. The former political prisoner and teacher will be tried under Article 134 of the 2015 Criminal Code (“intentionally inflicting injury on or causing harm to the health of other persons”), which carries a maximum sentence of 12 years. The trial may have to be postponed, as Hung’s lawyer, Ngo Anh Tuan, is also the lawyer for Nguyen Viet Dung, who goes to trial on the same day. Vu Van Hung has been active in environmental and social activism.
Please take Amnesty International’s Urgent Action for Pham Van Troi, Truong Minh Duc, and Nguyen Trung Ton. You can also take Front Line Defender’s action for Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Van Troi, Nguyen Bac Truyen, and Truong Minh Duc, calling for their immediate release from prison.
© 2018 The 88 Project