Việt Nam Social Rights Advocate Sentenced to 9 Years for “Propaganda”

Published July 25, 2017

Vietnamese authorities have sentenced yet another social activist to a lengthy prison term, continuing a spate of heavy-handed punishments against dissent. In a one-day trial on Tuesday, the People’s Court in Hà Nam province sentenced Trần Thị Nga to nine years in prison and five years of house arrest for “conducting propaganda against the State.”

The 40-year-old Nga, also known by her pen name “Thúy Nga,” is a prominent advocate for migrants and land rights. She has also been documenting and campaigning against police brutality on her Facebook page and her Youtube channel.

"This is an unfair verdict. Nga is not guilty as stated by the court." Nga’s lawyer Hà Huy Sơn told Reuters.

  Scores of police entered Trần Thị Nga’s home to arrest her in January. (Photo: Ba Sam)

Scores of police entered Trần Thị Nga’s home to arrest her in January. (Photo: Ba Sam)

International rights organisations have criticised Hà Nội for her arrest.

“The Vietnamese government consistently goes to extremes to silence its critics, targeting activists like Trần Thị Nga with bogus charges that carry a long prison sentence, and subjecting their families to harassment and abuse,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch in a statement released prior to her sentencing.

  Trần Thị Nga’s husband and two sons were prevented from entering the courthouse to attend her trial. (Photo: Facebook/Trương Minh Hưởng)

Trần Thị Nga’s husband and two sons were prevented from entering the courthouse to attend her trial. (Photo: Facebook/Trương Minh Hưởng)

Witnesses say hundreds of police surrounded the courthouse to prevent Nga’s supporters from gathering outside the courthouse. A flycam video shows security police blocking off the surrounding streets.

Nga’s husband and two young sons were prevented from entering the courthouse and forced to wait outside.

Her husband, Phan Văn Phong, in a post on Facebook said:

“The court did not receive us, so we wandered around the streets. We were tired out so the two boys looked for some shade to sit down and rest momentarily.”

Despite being barred from what was supposed to be a public trial, dozens of activists sat across the courthouse to protest the unfair processes and called for Nga’s release. “Thuý Nga is innocent,” they declared on signs.

Videos show plainclothed policemen confronting the peaceful protesters, pulling and tearing the signs from Nga’s supporters.

  Activists sit-in outside the Hà Nam People's Court. (Photo: Facebook/Nguyễn Thuý Hạnh

Activists sit-in outside the Hà Nam People's Court. (Photo: Facebook/Nguyễn Thuý Hạnh

  Trần Thị Nga’s children at a mass vigil the weekend before the trial. (Photo: Facebook/Thao Teresa)

Trần Thị Nga’s children at a mass vigil the weekend before the trial. (Photo: Facebook/Thao Teresa)

Nga has been frequently intimidated and physically attacked by police for her work.

Her sentence marks a worrying trend for activists for free expression. Last month prominent blogger Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh, who wrote under the pen name “Mother Mushroom,” was sentenced to ten years in prison under the same charges. In a separate incident, local authorities arrested  a social activist in Nghệ An province the evening before Nga’s trial and charged him with “attempting to overthrow the state.”