According to Saigon-based lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng, three activists Pham Doan Trang, Trinh Ba Phuong, and Le Anh Hung remained indomitable in the detention camp of the Hanoi police, determined not to succumb to Vietnamese security forces’ repression.
That is the latest information about the three activists that Mr. Mieng shared on his Facebook page after interacting with them individually at Detention Center No. 1 on May 17. He said he was only allowed to talk briefly for about 15 minutes with each person, although according to regulations, there is no limit on contact time between lawyers and detainees. He also said that two telephone conversations with Ms. Trang and Mr. Phuong were interrupted midway by the prison police.
Lawyer Mieng said that Ms. Trang (44 years old) was in poor health and was having difficulty breathing after COVID. She objected to the prison forcing them to wear shirts with the word Pham Nhan/criminal on them and not to sign any commitments or make compromises with the security services in order to be visited by family or even in exchange for freedom. She sent a message to everyone: “Overcoming fear is not difficult, but overcoming discouragement is the problem, so don’t be discouraged.”
In an interview with Radio Free Asia, Bui Thi Thien Can, the mother of activist Pham Doan Trang, said: “Some people say that it is because Trang is resilient that she is beaten [in the detention center- PV] but her health is not strong … The family wondered about Trang’s health… Trang’s brother sent requests to authorities many times to propose they take Trang to a specialist for medical treatment, but they didn’t let her… To deal with public opinion, there was one time they took Trang to a non-specialist examination, but only a formal examination.”
Regarding the case of prisoner of conscience Trinh Ba Phuong (37 years old), as Radio Free Asia reported, the High People’s Court in Hanoi intended to hold the appeal hearing for this human rights and land rights activist on May 19, but then suddenly canceled it for an indefinite time. However, during a brief meeting with attorney Mieng, Mr. Phuong said he had not received the decision of the appeal hearing nor the court’s cancelation notice. He added that security officers came to try to persuade him to confess, but he always insisted that he would continue to fight even after serving his prison term.
Regarding the case of blogger Le Anh Hung (49 years old), the lawyer said that the blogger was a bit thin but mentally sharp after the Hanoi police took him back to the detention center from the mental hospital earlier this month where he was forced for compulsory treatment for more than three years. Mr. Hung reiterated to his lawyer that he “has sufficient historical evidence and legal basis to confirm that he hung a banner denouncing Mr. Hoang Trung Hai and the person who covered for him is right.” Talking about his first-instance trial, Mr. Hung said he will not ask the court to reduce the punishment, but only ask the court to calculate the time he was held in the mental hospital for the detention time because he has not been free in a single day since his arrest in 2019. He also asked the court to declare him innocent and release him in court.
By phone, blogger Le Anh Hung’s mother, Ms. Niem, told Radio Free Asia that the detention center used the excuse of the COVID-19 epidemic to prevent her from seeing her son, but only let her transfer money to him to buy more food and stuff.
Pham Doan Trang is serving a nine-year prison sentence for conducting anti-state propaganda under Article 88 of the Penal Code 1999. Mr. Trinh Ba Phuong was sentenced to 10 years in prison in the first-instance hearing last December for also conducting propaganda against the State under Article 117 of the Criminal Code. Activist Le Anh Hung was accused of “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the Criminal Code.
These are provisions that are internationally condemned as vague and are often used by the Vietnamese government to silence peaceful critics of the government.