Five Vietnamese activists held without trial for almost two years will now go to court on Oct. 5 in Ho Chi Minh City, also called Saigon, a defense lawyer and family member said.
Luu Van Vinh, Nguyen Van Duc Do, Phan Trung, Tu Cong Nghia, and Nguyen Quoc Hoan were charged when arrested in 2016 with “activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of Vietnam’s Penal Code, attorney Dang Dinh Manh told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
“Their offense is listed under Item 1 [of the article], which carries the harshest penalty, and authorities tend to hand down harsh sentences in cases concerning national security,” Manh said.
An activist charged last year under the same article, Le Dinh Luong, was handed a 20-year prison term after a one-day trial in August, Manh said, adding, “Therefore, [especially] in the case of Luu Van Vinh and Nguyen Van Duc Do, we are afraid that their punishment will be heavy, too.”
Luu Van Vinh, 51, and his friend Nguyen Van Duc Do were arrested on Nov. 6, 2016 after police burst into Vinh’s home in Ho Chi Minh City, Vinh's wife Le Thi Thap told RFA in an earlier report.
After holding Vinh down and beating him, “The police dragged him out without presenting any order, and they took away all the phones that were sitting on the table,” she said. “They took his friend too.”
Vinh and other group members had been active in protesting the government’s handling of a massive chemical spill in April that devastated the country’s central coast, killing an estimated 115 tons of fish and leaving fishermen and tourism workers jobless in four central provinces, sources said.
Police present at meetings
Manh said that though he has been allowed to meet with his clients, members of a civil society group called the Vietnam National Alliance of Self-Determination, those meetings have been limited to 60 minutes and are held in the presence of police.
“We do not agree with this, since the police will probably report back to the procuracy, the investigating agency, and even the court,” he said.
“Conversations between lawyers and their clients should be completely confidential, for if the courts know what is said, this will make things very difficult for the defendants’ lawyers.”
Also speaking to RFA, Le Thi Thap confirmed that her husband will go to trial on Oct. 5.
“[The court] told Vinh and his lawyers, and his lawyers then told me,” she said, adding that her husband’s health and spirits are strong.
In the months following his arrest, though, her family has had to move from their home, and she has had trouble earning a living, she said.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by An Nguyen. Written in English by Richard Finney.