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Eight members of Brotherhood for Democracy found guilty and sentenced

Status: 
Convicted & Sentenced
About the situation

On 5 April 2018, a Ha Noi court found Nguyễn Văn Đài, Trương Minh Đức, Nguyễn Trung Tôn, Nguyễn Bắc Truyển, Lê Thu Hà, and Pham Văn Trội guilty of “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration.” On 10 and 11 April 2018, courts in Thai Binh and Nghe An found Nguyễn Văn Tuc and Trần Thị Xuân guilty of the same offence. Lengthy sentences were handed down by the court to the eight human rights defenders, who are all members of Brotherhood for Democracy.

About Le Thu Ha

Le Thu HaLe Thu Ha is the secretary of Brotherhood for Democracy, a Vietnamese association that promotes greater protection of human rights in Viet Nam. She also worked as a translator for Lương Tâm, “Conscience”, an independent TV station that broadcast YouTube clips about human rights isues in Viet Nam. She has been subject to travel ban and arbitrary detention, and she was kept in detention awaiting trial for over two years following her 2015 arrest.

13 April 2018
Eight members of Brotherhood for Democracy found guilty and sentenced

On 5 April 2018, a Ha Noi court found Nguyễn Văn Đài, Trương Minh Đức, Nguyễn Trung Tôn, Nguyễn Bắc Truyển, Lê Thu Hà, and Pham Văn Trội guilty of “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration.” On 10 and 11 April 2018, courts in Thai Binh and Nghe An found Nguyễn Văn Tuc and Trần Thị Xuân guilty of the same offence. Lengthy sentences were handed down by the court to the eight human rights defenders, who are all members of Brotherhood for Democracy.

Brotherhood for Democracy is an association of Vietnamese activists founded in April 2013. In an effort to promote democracy and human rights in Vietnam, the association provides human rights training and education to Vietnamese citizens throughout the country. Brotherhood for Democracy assists victims of government corruption, land appropriation, and corporate negligence to file legal suits in defense of their rights.

Nguyễn Văn Đài, a human rights attorney and founding member of Brotherhood for Democracy, received the longest sentence: 15 years’ imprisonment and 5 years’ probation. Nguyễn Văn Tuc, deputy head of Brotherhood for Democracy, was sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment and 3 years’ probation. Journalist Trương Minh Đức and pastor Nguyễn Trung Tôn each received sentences of 12 years, along with 3 years’ probation. 11 years’ imprisonment and 3 years’ probation were handed down to lawyer Nguyễn Bắc Truyển. Lê Thu Hà, secretary and translator for the Brotherhood for Democracy, received a 9 year sentence with 2 years’ probation, while engineer Pham Văn Trội was sentenced to 7 years in prison and 1 year probation. Activist Trần Thị Xuân, whose trial took place without any prior notice to her family, was sentenced to 9 years’ imprisonment and 5 years’ probation.

“Carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” is one of the most severe allegations human rights defenders face in Vietnam. The charge has been widely criticized as being both overly vague and unreasonably punitive. Those found to be the “main perpetrators” can be sentenced to death, life imprisonment, or between twelve and twenty years in prison. To date, the charge has been used extensively against dissidents and pro-democracy activists, despite scant evidence of perpetrators’ intention to “overthrow the people’s administration”. The charge against one defender tried on 5 April in Ha Noi was “conducting English classes” for members of the Brotherhood for Democracy, along with translating reports for foreign donors.

Under Vietnamese law, the human rights defenders have fifteen days to appeal the court’s decision.

Nguyễn Văn Đài and Lê Thu Hà had been awaiting trial since their arrest in December 2015. Trương Minh Đức, Nguyễn Bắc Truyển, and Pham Văn Trội also had prolonged detentions; they were arrested in July 2017 following coordinated actions across three cities. Nguyễn Văn Tuc had been held in detention since 1 September 2017 and Trần Thị Xuân had been detained since 17 October 2017.

The human rights defenders were granted extremely limited access to their families and to their legal counsel during their detentions. In some cases, the human rights defenders’ family members were never formally notified of the trial’s date. Trần Thị Xuân’s family learned about her 12 April trial only after it ended, and the human rights defender’s legal counsel was not present during the court proceedings.

Front Line Defenders calls on the Vietnamese authorities to rescind the court’s decision and to quash the sentences against Nguyễn Văn Đài, Trương Minh Đức, Nguyễn Bắc Truyển, Lê Thu Hà, Nguyễn  Trung Tôn, Pham Văn Trội, Nguyễn Văn Tuc, and Trần Thị Xuân. Front Line Defenders believes that the allegations are solely intended to stop the peaceful work of these human rights defenders.