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Vietnam: Six members of Brotherhood for Democracy are facing trial in Hanoi

Kỹ sư Phạm Văn Trội, Luật sư Nguyễn Văn Đài và Mục sư Nguyễn Trung Tôn trước tòa Source: VNA/VNS Photo Lâm Khánh

On 5 April 2018. The People Court in Hanoi has opened the trial of six members of Brotherhood for Democracy. Prominent human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and five others are accused of affiliating with a pro-democracy group called the Brotherhood for Democracy. These activists are accused of attempting to overthrow the government according to the Charter 79 as communist authorities step up their crackdown on dissent.

Brotherhood for Democracy founder Nguyen Van Dai, his assistant Le Thu Ha, and the organisation’s members Truong Minh Duc, Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Van Troi, and Nguyen Bac Truyen will appear before the People’s Court in Hanoi on April 5, 2018. If convicted, they could face from 12 years to life in prison or the death penalty.

On  April 3, 2018 ,Human Rights groups across the globe have released a joint Press to call for the Vietnamese authorities to drop all charges against human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, his assistant Le Thu Ha, and seven other members of the Brotherhood for Democracy and immediately release them.

The Joint Press relaese said “The international community must unequivocally condemn the Vietnamese Government’s relentless crackdown on civil society and demand the immediate and unconditional release of Nguyen Van Dai, his colleagues, and all other political prisoners in Vietnam. The lengthy and arbitrary pre-trial detention of Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thu Ha deserves a chorus of international outrage.” 

Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thu Ha have been arbitrarily detained without trial since December 16, 2015. 

Truong Minh Duc, Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Van Troi, and Nguyen Bac Truyen were simultaneously arrested at their homes in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Thanh Hoa on July 30, 2017, and have been arbitrarily detained since. 

Three other members of the group, Nguyen Trung Truc, Nguyen Van Tuc, and Tran Thi Xuan, arrested between July and October 2017, remain in custody. Nguyen Van Tuc is expected to stand trial on April 10, 2018 in Thai Binh Province.

Except Le Thu Ha, this is the second time Nguyen Van Dai, pahm Van Troi, Truong Minh Duc, Nguyen Bac Truyen andNguyen Trung Ton were arested and sentenced for their human rights advocate.

December 31, 2017, the Supreme People’s Procuracy in Hanoi announced that Nguyen Van Dai, Le Thu Ha, Truong Minh Duc, Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Van Troi, and and Nguyen Bac Truyen were accused of “activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s government” (formerly Article 79, now Article 109 in the amended Criminal Code).

Charges against them include advocating for the establishment of a free market economy and a democratic government, calling on international organisations to speak out against human rights violations, and giving legal support to dispossessed farmers and victims of the Formosa pollution disaster.

Since his arrest over two years ago, Nguyen Van Dai has not been allowed to meet with his lawyer, and his wife has only been permitted to visit him three times. In June 2017, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared Nguyen Van Dai’s detention arbitrary and called for his release. Other members of the Brotherhood for Democracy have also been denied access to their families and lawyers, and have had no opportunity to prepare their defence.

“This trial is a shocking display of Vietnam’s disregard of its binding obligations under core international human rights treaties to which it is a state party. Dai and his colleagues are facing execution for peaceful and legitimate human rights activities, without being able to prepare their defence. This is a new low even for Hanoi’s repressive regime,” said VCHR President Vo Van Ai.

Brotherhood for Democracy is an independent civil society organization that promotes human rights through online actions and coordinates the efforts of various pro-democracy actors in the country. Its members have a long record of harassment by Government authorities. Prior to the current detention, Nguyen Van Dai, Truong Minh Duc, Pham Van Troi, and Nguyen Bac Truyen had been arrested and served lengthy prison terms for their legitimate and peaceful human rights activities.

“We strongly condemn the harassment, arbitrary arrest, and trial of Nguyen Van Dai and the Brotherhood for Democracy members, which illustrate the Vietnamese Government’s relentless efforts to intimidate and silence human rights defenders for their legitimate human rights activities,” said OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock.

Since December 2017, at least 24 activists and human rights defenders have been sentenced to prison terms in Vietnam. The country holds at least 130 political prisoners.

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