The People’s Court of Hanoi will hold a first-instance trial with a closed-door hearing on April 12 to try blogger Nguyen Lan Thang on charges of “conducting propaganda against the state” under Clause 1, Article 117 of Vietnam’s Criminal Code. Family and his attorneys confirmed this information to Radio Free Asia (RFA).
Mr. Nguyen Lan Thang, 48 years old, human rights and democracy activist and blogger of RFA, was arrested on July 5, 2022. At the end of last week, the court made a decision to put him on trial. He faces five to 12 years in prison if convicted.
Le Bich Vuong, wife of Nguyen Lan Thang, told RFA of the trial scheduled for next Wednesday:
“I was informed through his lawyers that the trial of Mr. Thang will take place on the morning of April 12. The trial decision is recorded as a closed trial.”
Ms. Vuong said that both the family and the lawyer were surprised by the decision to hear it behind closed doors because in Mr. Thang’s case there were no factors leading to a closed trial. She said:
“Even the lawyers are surprised as to why there is a decision to have a closed trial now. The accusation against him are completely groundless but with a closed trial, family and friends are very confused.”
Article 25 of the Criminal Procedure Code stipulates: “Special cases where it is necessary to keep the state secret, the fine customs and traditions of the nation, to protect people under 18 years of age, or to keep the privacy of private life as required by the involved parties, the court may conduct a closed trial but must pronounce the judgment in public.”
Reporters could not call the Hanoi People’s Court at the phone number posted on the agency’s website to inquire about the reason for the decision to be closed in the trial of Mr. Nguyen Lan Thang.
In recent years, political trials of dissidents have been open to the public, even though there have been only a few cases where a small number of relatives have been able to attend the trial while friends and acquaintances have not been able to attend. Other activists were either placed under house arrest or violently stopped by security forces as they approached the court area.
Ms. Vuong said that none of Thang’s relatives, including herself, received an invitation to attend the trial. As a result, the family and attorneys are submitting petitions to the court to allow them to enter the courtroom to witness the trial.
Citing the indictment of the Hanoi People’s Procuracy, Ms. Vuong said that her husband was accused of “possessing” nearly 20 books, including two books Popular Politics and Nonviolent Resistance by journalists and human rights activist Pham Doan Trang, who is serving her nine-year prison sentence for “conducting propaganda against the state.”
Last week, Mr. Truong Van Dung was also sentenced to six years in prison for “possessing” Pham Doan Trang’s book Popular Politics, in addition to giving interviews to foreign media.
The indictment also accused Mr. Thang of “conducting propaganda against the state” by participating as a guest in 12 roundtable discussions on the situation in Vietnam by the London-based BBC.
Ms. Vuong said that the books that police seized from her house were donated books signed by the author, and some books that she bought at the book fair for her daughter to read.
She shared more about her husband’s BBC interview:
“Mr. Thang replied that his interviews did not violate the law, did not propagate against (the state – PV) and that he was making a complaint with his lawyers to protest the investigation results of the investigative agency.”
The indictment also mentions Facebook Nguyen Lan Thang (Nguyen Lan Ke) and Fanpage Nguyen Lan Thang, but admits that this page does not publicize personal email and phone, so registration information, account creation, cannot be identified. The admin of the Fanpage is not public, so it is not possible to identify the individual who manages and operates the page.
The reporter also contacted two of Mr. Thang’s lawyers, Le Van Luan and Le Dinh Viet, to request comment on this case. Lawyer Le Van Luan confirmed that the trial will be held next week and will be held in secret, so he cannot answer RFA.
Ms. Vuong said that the Hanoi police finished their investigation on January 17 of this year, and Mr. Thang met his lawyer for the first time on February 26. However, until now, the family has not been able to meet him despite submitting many requests.
Mr. Nguyen Lan Thang comes from an intellectual family in Hanoi. His grandfather is Professor Nguyen Lan, the author of the Vietnamese dictionary used for decades. Many of Nguyen Lan’s children are famous professors, doctors, or doctors of Vietnam.
Construction engineer Nguyen Lan Thang joined the anti-Chinese protest movement in Vietnam since 2011 and is a photographer who has contributed many images and videos about protests for the country’s sea and islands sovereignty and injustice in Vietnam.
Facebook Nguyen Lan Thang (Nguyen Lan Ke) is said to be his currently has nearly 160,000 followers, although he is being detained, this account still works normally with many posts and shares.
In addition, he also participated in many charity activities with like-minded people, such as helping people in the Central region affected by floods and storms, and building schools for children in the remote mountainous areas.
Mr. Nguyen Lan Thang has had many articles on freedom, democracy and human rights on RFA’s blog since late 2013.