Three members of Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (from left): Le Huu Minh Tuan, Nguyen Tuong Thuy, Pham Chi Dung
On November 10, 2020, the People’s Procuracy of Ho Chi Minh City issued a 12-page indictment, prosecuting three key members of the unregistered professional group Independent Journalists’ Association of Vietnam (IJAVN) under Clause 2, Article 117 of the Criminal Code “Making, storing, distributing or disseminating information, documents and articles against the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”
Mr. Pham Chi Dung is IJAVN’s President and Mr. Nguyen Tuong Thuy is its vice president while Mr. Tuan is an editor of the organization’s website Vietnam Thoi bao (vietnamthoibao.org), a forum advocating free speech in Vietnam where the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam controls the main media. The three activists can face sentence from 10 to 20 years in prison if they are found guilty.
Clause 2 of this crime stipulates: “Committing the crime in particularly serious cases, the offenders shall be sentenced to between 10 and 20 years of imprisonment.”
Lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng, defending Mr. Pham Chi Dung and Mr. Nguyen Tuong Thuy, said on November 10 when he contacted Mr. Dung in the detention center managed by HCM City Police Department, a representative of the People’s Procuracy, Mr. Dao Cong Lu, came and handed over the indictment.
Mr. Dung then affirmed that: “I has not violated the law of Vietnam!”
Lawyer Mieng said over the phone as follows:
“When receiving such an indictment, Dung was also indifferent.
After that, Mr. Dao Cong Lu, a representative of Ho Chi Minh City People’s Procuracy gave the paper to confirm that he received (the indictment), Dung wrote it as ‘I have not violated the law of Vietnam’ and he signed in front of me.
After reading the indictment, I informed Dung that they prosecute them to Clause 2 of Article 117 with a sentence of 10 to 20 years. Then Mr. Dung told me ‘They can charge us with whatever they want.’
He also told me that he has not signed in all the statements or he signed by writing such words.”
On the same day, lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng also had a meeting with Mr. Thuy, also a blogger of Radio Free Asia.
Thuy said he will appeal the indictment because he thinks there are many errors.
Attorney Mieng said as follows:
“I asked for the reason why, he said when they took the articles posted on the Vietnam Times website to force him to sign for it and they brought 5 articles in it for inspection and claim that he is in violation of Article 117.
He signed and accepted all of this but later he said that he used the pen name Nguyen Tuong Thuy for all his writing while some articles were with Tuong Thuy’s name so they were not his ones.
He said could not remember all the articles he wrote and requested to make another statement but the Procuracy denied him to make another testimony.”
The other person, Mr. Le Huu Minh Tuan, was defended by lawyer Dang Dinh Manh from Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association, but when the RFA interviewed, the lawyer said he was busy and would contact later.
According to the indictment No. 543 of the People’s Procuracy of Ho Chi Minh City that RFA has, the Procuracy concludes, the behavior of these 3 journalists is “Giving disgruntled elements political opportunities to erode the people’s trust in the Party and State, causing confusion in public opinion, causing disunity within the Party and the State, must be strictly punished with in order to have the effect of on others.”