Vietnamese activist told wife will be arrested if he doesn’t ‘confess’

Trinh Ba Phuong has refused to speak to investigators, asserting his right to keep silent.
2021.11.03
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Vietnamese activist told wife will be arrested if he doesn’t ‘confess’ Vietnamese land-rights activist Trinh Ba Phuong and his wife are shown in an undated photo.
Photo: FBNV

Police in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi are threatening the wife of a detained land-rights activist with arrest if he refuses to plead guilty to charges against him when he goes to trial, the man’s lawyer said on Wednesday.

Trinh Ba Phuong, who was arrested in June 2020 on a charge of “spreading propaganda against the state," is being held at the Hanoi Police Detention Center No. 1 and has been waiting for his case to come to court for more than 16 months.

A session of Phuong’s trial scheduled for Wednesday was postponed after prosecutors in the case were put into quarantine after coming in contact with people testing positive for COVID-19, and no new trial date has been set.

He faces a possible prison term of from 10 to 20 years upon conviction.

Phuong is being told his wife will be arrested if he fails to confess to the charges made against him, his lawyer Dang Dinh Manh told RFA following a meeting in jail with Phuong on Tuesday.

“Investigators had previously brought in a smart phone and shown Phuong a Facebook posting by his wife Do Thi Thu in which she described the police as ‘thugs’ and called them inhumane,” Manh said, adding that police told Phuong that these were grounds for Thu’s arrest.

“And they told Phuong that if he did not confess to his crimes, they would take her into custody,” Manh said, adding, “This is what Phuong told me yesterday.”

Phuong has so far exercised his right not to answer questions during his pre-trial investigation and has made no confession, his lawyer said. Because of this, police investigators forced him to undergo mental health assessments at the National Psychiatric Hospital No. 1 in Hanoi’s Thuong Tin District in March 2021.

Attempts to force a confession by threatening a family member’s arrest are a form of coercion not permitted under the law, Manh said.

“These can be seen as a way of forcing the arrestee to make statements [against their will],” he said.

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Before his arrest, Trinh Ba Phuong sold freshwater crabs to earn a living. Photo: Facebook / Thinh Nguyen

'I only wrote the truth'

Thu herself had already been summoned by police for questioning about her Facebook posts late last year, Thu told RFA in an interview.

“They told me that it was forbidden to speak badly about the regime on Facebook, but I told them that I only wrote the truth,” she said.

“In spite of their threats, I think that our family’s spirit is very resilient and strong. My husband will never be afraid, and I’ll never give in either, even if they arrest me. Like my husband, I’ll be steadfast and strong until the end.”

A well-known land rights activist in Hanoi, Phuong was arrested on June 24, 2020 together with his younger brother and mother after they spoke out on social media about the Jan. 9, 2020 clash in Dong Tam commune is which 3,000 police stormed protesters’ homes at a construction site outside the capital, killing a village elder.

They had also offered information to foreign embassies and other international figures to try to raise awareness of the incident.

While all land is ultimately held by the state, land confiscations have become a flashpoint as residents accuse the government of pushing small landholders aside in favor of lucrative real estate projects, and of paying too little in compensation to farming families displaced by development.

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

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