Vietnamese Rights Activist Arrested in Hanoi, Charged Under Article 117

Do Nam Trung had taken part in social protest movements and had spoken out against official corruption in his writings on social media.
2021-07-06
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Vietnamese Rights Activist Arrested in Hanoi, Charged Under Article 117 Vietnamese activist Do Nam Trung is shown in an undated photo.
Facebook / Do Nam Trung

A Vietnamese rights activist wanted by police for writings opposing the government was arrested by police in Hanoi on Tuesday and quickly transferred to the custody of authorities in his nearby hometown, the activist’s partner said.

Don Nam Trung was arrested in the early morning hours of July 6 by a large group of police officers who broke into the house he shared with his girlfriend Nguyen Thi Anh Tuyet, the young woman told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.

“This morning while I was sleeping, I heard dogs barking. I went down to the ground floor and saw around 20 security officers both in uniform and plain clothes coming up the stairs,” Tuyet said. “When they saw me, they asked me to come downstairs to meet with them,” she said.

After arresting Trung and taking his set of keys to her house, police then searched the entire house, she said.

“They looked through every room in my three-floor house, including my child’s, and took away some of Trung’s papers,” Tuyet said, adding that officers showed her a search warrant and a document saying that Trung had been arrested on charges under Article 117 of Vietnam’s Penal Code.

Trung’s and Tuyet’s movements had been watched by plainclothes police for at least two days before his arrest, Tuyet said.

After his arrest, Trung was sent back to the Red River Delta city of Nam Dinh, about 85 km (52 miles) from the capital Hanoi.

Article 117 of Vietnam’s 2015 Criminal Code imposes penalties for “creating, storing, and disseminating information, documents, items, and publications opposing the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” and is frequently used by authorities to stifle peaceful critics of the country’s one-party communist government.

Those convicted of crimes charged under Article 117 can be sentenced to from five to 20 years in prison. Details of the specific charges made against Trung were not immediately available.

Born in 1981, Trung had taken part in several social movements and had spoken out against official corruption in his writings on social media. He had also posted criticisms of the build-operate-transfer (BOT) highways that Vietnam has adopted in recent years, sparking rare protests over toll collections described by many motorists as unfair.

Trung had earlier served a 14-month prison term after being arrested in 2014 on a charge of “abusing the rights to freedom and democracy to violate the interests of the State and the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and individuals” under Article 258 of the 1999 Penal Code.

Harsh forms of persecution

With Vietnam’s media all following Communist Party orders, “the only sources of independently-reported information are bloggers and independent journalists, who are being subjected to ever-harsher forms of persecution,” the press freedoms watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says in its 2021 Press Freedoms Index.

Measures taken against them now include assaults by plainclothes police, RSF said in its report, which placed Vietnam at 175 out of 180 countries surveyed worldwide, a ranking unchanged from last year.

“To justify jailing them, the Party resorts to the criminal codes, especially three articles under which ‘activities aimed at overthrowing the government,’ ‘anti-state propaganda’ and ‘abusing the rights to freedom and democracy to threaten the interests of the state’ are punishable by long prison terms,” the rights group said.

Vietnam’s already low tolerance of dissent deteriorated sharply last year with a spate of arrests of independent journalists, publishers, and Facebook personalities as authorities continued to stifle critics in the run-up to the ruling Communist Party Congress in January. But arrests continue in 2021.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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