Tran Duc Thach, a co-founder of Vietnam’s online Brotherhood for Democracy group, will face trial in Nghe An province on Nov. 30, the U.S.-based Project 88 advocacy group and his lawyer said this week.
Tran Duc Thach was arrested on April 23, 2020 and charged with “activities aimed at overthrowing the People’s Government” under Article 109 of the Vietnamese Criminal Code for Facebook postings exposing government corruption and human rights abuses.
The Brotherhood for Democracy is not recognized by the Vietnamese government, and many of its members have been imprisoned since its founding in 2013.
“He is going to be brought to trial, and as in the trials for other dissidents, his final sentence cannot be predicted but will depend on how Thach’s views are presented in the court,” defense attorney Ha Huy Son told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Nov. 23.
“He has admitted his activities but says that they were intended only as a contribution to criticism, and not for any anti-state purpose,” Ha said.
Though a formal police investigation of Tran ended months months ago, and his indictment had already been forwarded to the courts, Tran’s lawyer was only recently allowed to meet with him at his detention center in Nghe An and was blocked from making a photocopy of the indictment, Ha told RFA on Nov. 5.
Ha said Tran told him he is being charged with two offenses in connection with his writings on Facebook and his activities with the Brotherhood for Democracy from 2013 to 2016. Tran is also in ill health in jail and suffers from gout, high blood pressure, and ulcerative colitis, Ha said.
Long-time rights activist
Born in 1952 in Nghe An, Tran served with North Vietnamese forces during the Vietnam War and has been an activist for human rights and democracy in Vietnam for many years.
In his book Obsessive Grave, Tran tells the story of how North Vietnamese soldiers killed hundreds of innocents at Tan Lap commune in Dong Nai province’s Xuan Loc district during the final campaign of the war that ended with communist forces’ victory on April 30, 1975.
Tran was earlier sentenced to three years in jail in October 2009 for “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” along with Vu Van Hung and Pham Van Troi.
Three members of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN) are meanwhile expected to face trial in January, Project 88 said on Nov. 23.
Jailed dissidents win rights awards
In a virtual ceremony broadcast live on Facebook and YouTube, the California-based Vietnam Human Rights Network awarded its 2020 Human Rights Award on Nov. 21 to jailed Vietnamese music teacher Nguyen Nang Tinh and citizen journalist Nguyen Van Hoa, a contributor to RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
Sentenced on Nov. 5, 2019 to 11 years in prison, Tinh had led candlelight vigils in support of Vietnamese prisoners of conscience and had led protests against the government’s handling of the massive Formosa Plastics Group toxic-waste spill that devastated coastal provinces in April 2016.
Hoa, who had blogged and produced videos for RFA and is now serving a seven-year term in prison, was arrested on Jan. 11, 2017 for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state,” but the charges against him were later upgraded to the more severe “conducting propaganda against the state.”
Vietnam has increasingly rounded up independent journalists, bloggers, and other dissident voices in recent months as authorities already intolerant of dissent seek to stifle critics in the run-up to the ruling Communist Party congress in January.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by An Nguyen. Written in English by Richard Finney.