UPDATED at 4:36 PM on 11/20/2018
A well-known Vietnamese blogger and human rights advocate is set to face trial for "affronting the national flag or national emblem,” a rights group and her lawyer said on Friday, three months after she was briefly detained and had her computer, books and other items confiscated.
Huynh Thuc Vy, 33, a co-founder of the advocacy group Vietnamese Women for Human Rights, was taken away on Aug. 9 by police in Dak Lak province’s Buon Ho town in the country’s central highlands after refusing previous summons to come in to their offices for questioning, Huynh’s husband Le Khanh Duy told RFA’s Vietnamese Service at that time.
On Friday, the rights group Defend the Defenders quoted Dak Lak police and prosecutors as saying she would be prosecuted for “Affronting the national flag or national emblem” under Article 276 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.
“I believe the prosecutor’s report has all details about her case. The report even elaborates on all her motives. Even though Huynhv admitted what she did but whether or not it violated the law or not is still depends on our argument at the trial,” lawyer Dang Dinh Manh from Ho Chi Minh City told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
According to Defend the Defenders, the charges stem from a 2017 incident in which “[Huynh] was pictured with the Vietnamese national flag which was tainted with paint.”
“Someone said she intentionally defamed the flag that she has never recognized,” the right’s group’s website reported.
Manh told RFA that if the court finds Huynh guilty and sentences her to prison, she would not have to serve the sentence right away because her two-year-old daughter is under 36 months old. The sentence would be postponed until the child reaches the age of three, he said.
Huynh is the oldest child of former political prisoner Huynh Ngoc Tuan, who spent ten years in prison in 1992-2002 for sending a political book he had written abroad, Defend the Defenders said.
In 2017, she was listed by the BBC among five women in Asia “who risk their lives for others' rights” and spoke to the British network about her family’s troubles with the one-party communist government in Hanoi.
"Even though the imprisonment of my father and the repeated harassment towards our whole family has made us so tired, we have the chance to have meaningful and altruistic lives, by taking risks, acting on behalf of vulnerable people and facing the authorities," she told the BBC.
"If we do not play a role in activism now, we will never be able to demand gender equality later."
Her father Tuan still suffers from police harassment, while his youngest child has had to flee to Thailand to seek political asylum, Defend the Defenders said.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Paul Eckert.