The trial panel of the People’s Court of Hoa Binh province on May 5 sentenced human rights defenders Mr. Trinh Ba Tu and his mother Can Thi Theu to 8 years in prison and three years of probation on the charge of ” Making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 117 of the country’s Criminal Code.
Ms. Can Thi Theu was arrested with her two sons, Trinh Ba Phuong and Trinh Ba Tu on June 24, 2020.
There is currently no trial schedule for Mr. Trinh Ba Phuong – who is currently detained at Hoa Lo Detention Center, Hanoi.
Mr. Trinh Ba Khiem, Can Thi Theu’s husband, broadcast a Livestream on Facebook, said he went to court but was unable to attend because he had no ID card. Many people from Duong Noi also tried to enter the courtroom but were “dragged to the other side of the road” by the police.
After that, Mr. Khiem was allowed to enter the courthouse but was not allowed in the courtroom.
His daughter Trinh Thi Thao and daughter-in-law Do Thi Thu attended the trial.
In the videos and pictures posted by Khiem’s family on Facebook, many police, plainclothes agents and militia, fire trucks, ambulances … were mobilized in front of the Hoa Binh court gate.
Ms. Trinh Thi Thao wrote on Facebook that her mother said she was “held together with 9 others in a 7-square-meter cell, some of them were HIV infected people. In the first seven days, she had to drink water from a pool.”
The Vietnamese government has always said its law enforcement system respects human rights and respects women, but the above information was not published by the state-controlled media.
‘My name is “Communist victim‘”
“That is the answer of Ms. Can Thi Theu and Mr. Trinh Ba Tu to the court about their full name in the background verification.”
“Witnessing their fierce, indomitable attitude in court, I was losing control, I shed tears of shame,” lawyer Dang Dinh Manh, one of the four defense lawyers for Ms. Theu and Mr. Tu, at noon in court.
Shortly before the trial, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a press release, urging the Vietnamese government to immediately release Ms. Theu and her two sons, and remove all charges against them.
John Sifton, HRW’s Asia Regional Advocacy Director said: “Can Thi Theu and her family are human rights defenders who dare to speak up in Vietnam. The Vietnamese government should listen to people like this brave family and do not throw them in jail.”
The HRW statement also accused the Vietnamese government of “violating international human rights standards” by not allowing lawyers to meet with Ms. Theu and Mr. Trinh Ba Tu for nine months, and not to allow their family’s visit.
Mr. Sifton said: “Even in the face of persecution and brutality, Can Thi Theu and her family has shown great courage in pursuing human rights advocacy, while the Vietnamese government has shown lack of courage to listen to citizens’ criticisms. Vietnam’s donors and international trade partners need to speak out in support of these brave dissidents and condemn Vietnam’s ongoing repression.”
Why were Mrs. Theu and her son arrested?
The family of Ms. Theu, a pure peasant family in Duong Noi, Hanoi, lost their land after the government confiscated it for an “urban development project.”
The couple was first imprisoned in 2014 on charges of “resisting on-duty state officials” when Mrs. Theu was filming the land coercion in Duong Noi.
After being released from prison, Ms. Theu continued to protest against land seizure. She also participated in the protests for the environment, democracy, and supported other activists. This resulted in her being jailed for the second time by the authorities in 2016.
Leaving prison in 2018, Mrs. Theu said that she went back from a “small prison” to a “big one” and declared her fight to the end for democracy and the rights of people who lost their land. Joining her in these struggles were her two sons, Trinh Ba Phuong and Trinh Ba Tu.
They use social media to speak up about land issues and other cases that they consider social injustice.
Before his arrest, Trinh Ba Phuong actively published news and articles on the Dong Tam case, attracting the attention of domestic and foreign public opinion.
Trinh Ba Phuong and Trinh Ba Tu also posted on Facebook on the day of their arrest, they talked about”’no suicidal intentions” while being held in police custody, and if they die, they would be tortured and beaten and asked supporters and family members to show their bodies to the public if they are killed to expose “the crimes” against them.
Ms. Theu and her two sons were arrested on June 24, 2020, in two different cases, with the same charge of “conducting anti-state propaganda.”
What does the Vietnamese government say?
The Ministry of Public Security said that the initial investigation “determined” Mrs. Theu and her two children had activities of composing, posting, and distributing video clips and articles with fabricated content, causing confusion among the masses with the aim to work against the state of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” according to Tuoi Tre newspaper.
The same ministry said that after searching the whereabouts of Mrs. Theu’s family, the Security Investigation Agency “obtained a number of books, some handwritten documents, CDs, DVDs … with content anti-state propaganda.”
The People’s Public Security Newspaper wrote that Can Thi Theu, Trinh Ba Phuong, and Trinh Ba Tu “were often supported from the outside, praised by the hostile websites, turning them into puppets who challenge the law.”
This newspaper describes that Ms. Theu repeatedly gathered hundreds of people in Duong Noi to sue, boo, stretch banners to “cause public disorders,” and that she was repeatedly discouraged but “did not repent“, and even dragged her two sons, Trinh Ba Phuong, Trinh Ba Tu, into the “cycle of sin.”