Back to top

Nguyen Bac Truyen arrested for anti-State activities

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.

On 30 July 2017, the Vietnamese authorities simultaneously arrested four human rights defenders, all members of the Brotherhood for Democracy and former prisoners of conscience, at their homes in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Thanh Hoa. Nguyen Trung Ton, Nguyen Bac Truyen, Pham Van Troi and Truong Minh Duc were taken into custody and subsequently charged under Article 79 of the Penal Code for “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people's administration”, which can carry the death penalty.

About Nguyen Bac Truyen

nguyen_bac_truyen.jpgNguyen Bac Truyen is a legal expert who promotes freedom of belief in the Mekong Delta region and is Head of the Vietnamese Political & Religious Prisoners Friendship Association, an organization for former prisoners of conscience. He has also provided free legal assistance to victims of land grabs, campaigned for multi-party democracy and called on the Vietnamese government to release all political prisoners.

12 April 2018
Eight members of Brotherhood for Democracy found guilty & 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.

1 August 2017
Nguyen Bac Truyen arrested for anti-State activities

On 30 July 2017, the Vietnamese authorities simultaneously arrested four human rights defenders, all members of the Brotherhood for Democracy and former prisoners of conscience, at their homes in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Thanh Hoa. Nguyen Trung Ton, Nguyen Bac Truyen, Pham Van Troi and Truong Minh Duc were taken into custody and subsequently charged under Article 79 of the Penal Code for “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people's administration”, which can carry the death penalty.

Download the Urgent Appeal (PDF)

Nguyen Trung Ton is a human rights defender and protestant pastor who advocates for democracy and freedom of religion in Vietnam. He is the current President of Brotherhood for Democracy, an independent civil society organisation which uses the Internet to promote human rights and coordinate the efforts of various pro-democracy actors in the country. In December 2011, Nguyen Trung Ton was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and two years’ probation on charges of “anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code. In recent years, he and his family have been constantly harassed and intimidated by the local authorities in Thanh Hoa province.

Nguyen Bac Truyen is a legal expert who promotes freedom of belief in the Mekong Delta region and is Head of the Vietnamese Political & Religious Prisoners Friendship Association, an organization for former prisoners of conscience. He has also provided free legal assistance to victims of land grabs, campaigned for multi-party democracy and called on the Vietnamese government to release all political prisoners.

Truong Minh Duc is a citizen journalist and the Deputy Head of the Brotherhood for Democracy in the Southern region of the country. He was arrested in 2007 and sentenced to 5 years in prison, convicted of “taking advantage of freedom and democracy to infringe upon the interests of the country”, under Article 258 of the Penal Code. Since being released in 2012, he has been harassed and repeatedly assaulted by unidentified people working for the government.

Pham Van Troi is a human rights defender and a former President of the Brotherhood for Democracy. He was arrested in 2008 and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code. He was sentenced to four years in prison and an additional four years under house arrest. Since his release in 2012, he has continued to work  promoting human rights and multi-party democracy.

On the morning of 30 July 2017, the Security Investigation Agency of Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security carried out the arrests of Nguyen Trung Ton and Truong Minh Duc at their residence in Ho Chi Minh City and Pham Van Troi in Hanoi. The agency, which deployed a large number of police officers for the operation, searched their house and confiscated many of their personal items. Meanwhile, Nguyen Bac Truyen was reported to have gone missing in Ho Chi Minh City after his wife failed to contact him over the phone. The Ministry of Public Security later published a statement confirming that the four defenders had been taken into custody.

The four defenders have all served previous jail sentences and are connected to Nguyen Van Dai, the co-founder of the Brotherhood for Democracy, who has been detained under article 88 of the Penal Code since December 2015. They were taken into custody and charged under Article 79 of the Vietnamese 1999 Penal Code. They will be held for investigation for up to four months and face imprisonment of between 12 and 20 years, life imprisonment or capital punishment if they are convicted.

On 24 July 2017, the Vietnamese authorities also arrested and charged environmental rights activist Le Dinh Luong under Article 79 of the Penal Code. The police said that the detention was based on his recent activities which “aim to overthrow the people’s government and cause social disorders.” The defender had spoken out against the Taiwanese company Formosa Plastics Corp. that caused one of Vietnam's biggest environmental disasters in April 2016.

Front Line Defenders condemns the arrest and detention of human rights defenders Nguyen Trung Ton, Nguyen Bac Truyen, Pham Van Troi and Truong Minh Duc under Article 79 of the Penal Code, which it believes are solely motivated by their peaceful and legitimate work for human rights in Vietnam.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Vietnam to:

1. Immediately and unconditionally release Nguyen Trung Ton, Nguyen Bac Truyen, Pham Van Troi and Truong Minh Duc and drop all charges against them, as Front Line Defenders believes that they are being targeted solely as a result of their legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights;

2. Inform the family and lawyers of Nguyen Trung Ton, Nguyen Bac Truyen, Pham Van Troi and Truong Minh Duc of the place of their detention, and allow them immediate and unfettered access to them;

3. Return the documents confiscated during the raid, as they are manifestly not linked to any criminal activity;

4. Cease targeting all human rights defenders in Vietnam and guarantee in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.