On the morning of January 8, 2020, the Higher People’s Court in Ho Chi Minh City held the appeal hearing of four members of the unsanctioned group Hiến Pháp (Constitution) who appealed the verdict given by the People’s Court of HCM City in the first-instance hearing on July 31 last year.
A few hours later, the appeal panel upheld the sentences of four people, including Mrs. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hanh to 8 years in prison, Ngo Van Dung, Ho Dinh Cuong, and Le Quy Loc to 5 years in prison according to Article 118 of the Criminal Code fo. the allegation “disruption of security.”
Lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng, the defense for Ms. Hanh and Mr. Loc, said the people who appeared in court today always affirm their innocence. Mr. Mieng said by phone as follows:
“These four people were in court in a very good spirit and they always insist that their job is right.
However, on September 4, 2018, before the planned protest against the bill on Special Economic Zone happened, they were arrested.
This morning the defendants generally asserted their rights.
Through this case today, they once again mentioned the Chinese element, they said that they went to the streets to protest against China, against the bill of the Special Economic Zone, but had absolutely no purpose to disrupt security or against the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”
In the opinion of Mr. Mieng, these people have made good use of Article 25 of the 2013 Constitution, which stipulates the right to freedom of expression, including the right to freedom of speech and freedom of demonstration; Together with Article 28 of the Constitution which states citizens have the right to participate in contributing and giving opinions in order to build the country and the government always creates favorable conditions for them.
However, the court rejected this argument and assumed that these people had their purpose to “disrupt security” so they had to be punished according to Article 118.
Ms. Huynh Thi Kim Nga, wife of Mr. Ngo Van Dung said that she and some other relatives of the defendants were allowed to enter a separate room to watch the trial via the TV screen, not to be suppressed like the first-instance hearing. She reported as follows:
“In general, today’s trial is fine, not having a lot of interruptions and the loudspeaker not being muted.
Well, I don’t know the reason why I sit with the sisters to see the same about the image … as well as let you argue a lot, lawyers can argue a lot.
I do not know-how, the sisters told each other why today is a little easier to breathe, it turned out that the US Consulate General also attended the hearing in the same room adjacent to the courtroom.
According to Ms. Nga, in his last words, Mr. Dung still affirms his innocence:
“He said that even if they imprison him for 5 years or 10 years or 100 years, he still insists that he is innocent, he has done nothing wrong with our country.
As much as they want to punish him, he affirmed that he exercised his rights stated in Article 25 of the Vietnamese Constitution.”
As we have reported, the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court on the evening of July 31, 2020, sentenced eight of the group to a total of 40 years and 6 months in prison on charges of “disruption of security.”
This is a group that promotes the exercise of the right to protest in the Vietnamese Constitution that is not recognized by the state, they were arrested before September 4, 2018, while planning to attend a protest against the Special Economic Zone bill and the Cybersecurity bill.
Four people filed an appeal against the first-instance sentence, while four others went to different prisons to serve their prison sentences.