Wife of detained Vietnam journalist appeals for international help

The wife of a Vietnamese journalist arrested for nominating himself for election to the country’s National Assembly has called for intervention in her husband’s case, appealing for help in letters sent to foreign embassies and international rights groups on Monday.

Do Le Na asked the international community in her letters to pressure Hanoi to release citizen journalist Le Trong Hung, who was arrested March 27 after declaring his candidacy for election in a challenge to political processes tightly controlled by the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam.

Do Le Na told RFA that she hoped her appeal to the UN Human Rights Commission, UN Human Rights Council, and other groups would inspire the families of other political prisoners in Vietnam to take similar steps.

“I sent my letters out, firstly, because they have the duty to protect human rights, and secondly because I hoped to attract more attention to my family’s case,” Na said in an interview with RFA on Monday.

“I would also like people living in Vietnam—and especially the families of detainees who don’t dare to speak up—to know that it is everyone’s right to speak out against injustice, and that we shouldn’t be afraid of [the government] if we are in the right,” she said.

On Nov. 5, Hung’s lawyer and family were allowed access to the indictment filed against him by the Hanoi People’s Procuracy, Na said.

According to the document, Hung is being prosecuted under Article 117 of Vietnam’s Penal Code for “creating, storing, disseminating information, materials, items and publications against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”

Central to the case against Hung, Na said, are four videos posted to his Facebook page covering politically sensitive issues.

Topics discussed in the videos included the deadly Jan. 9, 2020 police crackdown during a land dispute in Dong Tam Commune, the role of the courts in Vietnam’s political system, and Hung’s own candidacy for election to the National Assembly.

Na challenged those who had declared Hung’s videos opposed the state or defamed national leaders to confront her husband and his lawyers in person at his trial.

“The openness, transparency, fairness, and strictness of the law can be guaranteed only if they do so,” Na said.

No date has been announced yet for Hung’s trial, but a conviction under Article 117 of Vietnam’s Penal Code could leave him facing a term of from five to 12 years in prison.

One of two self-nominated candidates for Vietnam’s National Assembly, Hung, 79, is a former teacher and founder of CHTV Television, which formerly livestreamed videos on hot-button social and political issues.

Hung’s arrest followed that of another would-be election candidate arrested for his online postings. Tran Quoc Khanh, 61, was sentenced to a six-and-a-half year prison term on Oct. 28—the latest conviction aimed at shutting down criticism online of the one-party communist state.

Vietnam is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index for 2021.

Vietnam’s already low tolerance of dissent deteriorated sharply last year with a spate of arrests of independent journalists, publishers, and Facebook personalities as authorities continued to stifle critics in the run-up to the ruling Communist Party Congress in January. Arrests continue in 2021.

Translated for RFA’s Vietnamese Service by Anna Vu. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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