Vietnamese Dissident Arrested in Violent House Raid

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vietnam-nguyen-bac-truyen-305.jpg An undated photo of Nguyen Bac Truyen holding a poster calling for the release of dissident lawyer Le Quoc Quan.
Photo courtesy of Bin Thi Kim Phuong.

Hundreds of armed Vietnamese police and government agents fired gunshots and stormed a residence to detain a dissident rights lawyer at the weekend, just days after Hanoi came under fire at the U.N. for muzzling dissent in the one-party communist state, according to his fiancee and rights groups.

Nguyen Bac Truyen, a former political prisoner, was assaulted, blindfolded, handcuffed and dragged away from the home of his fiancee Bin Thi Kim Phuong in southern Vietnam’s Dong Thap province where he has been staying before their wedding, they said.

Police smashed windows, broke doors, destroyed furnishings and other items in the home and confiscated Nguyen’s laptop and cell phone.

Truyen, who provides free legal assistance to victims of land grabs and campaigns for multiparty democracy, was detained allegedly on charges of “stealing assets” in connection with a property dispute.

'Risk of physical attack'

Authorities released him after 24 hours of detention, but U.S. rights group Freedom House warned in a statement that he remains at risk of arrest or physical attack.

The violent raid came about a week before Truyen is set to marry Phuong, a follower of the Hoa Hao Buddhist sect, on Feb. 18.

“Many policemen came to my house, broke my door, and ruined the altar and portraits of the Hoa Hao founder. They fired three gunshots,” Phuong told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.  

“They handcuffed Truyen and took him out and slapped his face, making him fall,” said Phuong, who was also detained for several hours.

Truyen, who is in his mid-forties, was released at 8:00 p.m. on Monday, following calls for his release from international rights activists and an online plea for help from Phuong, fellow dissident Nguyen Minh Duc said.


Vietnam Human Rights Network, a U.S.-based watchdog group, “strongly condemned the violent action” on Truyen, who had been previously jailed for “anti-state propaganda.”

Freedom House called on the Vietnamese government “to immediately end its attacks on Nguyen and other human rights defenders.”

“As a member of the UNHRC, Vietnam should conscientiously observe the rights guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ensuring that the fundamental freedoms of all Vietnamese citizens are protected,” it said.

Vietnam came under criticism at the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva.last Wednesday for the harassment and jailing of bloggers and government critics during the Universal Periodic Review—a process each U.N. member country undergoes every four years.

Phuong said police had first arrived at her home in Vo Lap district Sunday morning but left after the couple refused to let them in without a warrant.

They returned hours later with orders to arrest Truyen in connection with an alleged property dispute, she said.

Phuong was released around 9:00 p.m. Sunday night after several hours of interrogation at the local village office, where police threatened to continue harassing her for associating with Truyen, she said.

“They threatened me, telling me that they will terrorize me and give me more difficulties in the future,” she said. “They told me Truyen is a bad person, that he violated the law.”

Upon his release, Truyen went to his parents’ home in Ho Chi Minh City some 100 miles (160 kilometers) northeast of Don Thap and called Phuong to inform her he was safe, dissident website Dan Lam Bao reported.

Previous jailing

He was jailed alongside two other dissidents from 2007 to 2010 under Article 88 of the Criminal Code for “conducting propaganda against the state."

International rights groups and press freedom watchdogs have accused Hanoi of using the vaguely worded provision to silence dissent.

The three were members of Bloc 8406, a group of activists and intellectuals who signed an April 2006 manifesto calling for multiparty democracy in Vietnam.

Truyen was released in May 2010 with two years’ probation, to which another three months were later added, and has faced a series of incidents of harassment by the authorities since then.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.


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