PARIS, 1st November 2008 (VIETNAM COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS) – The wives of five pro-democracy activists in Vietnam whose husbands were arrested in September 2008 have written to the Vietnamese leadership calling for their release and “safe return” to their families. In a letter dated 30.10.2008, Mrs Nguyen Thi Nga, the wife of writer Nguyen Xuan Nghia, Mrs Nguyen Thi Huyen Trang, wife of human rights defender Nguyen Van Troi, Mrs Bui Thi Re, wife of Nguyen Van Tuc, Mrs Ly Thi Tuyet Mai, wife of teacher Vu Hung, and Mrs Nguyen Thi Loc, wife of Nguyen Kim Nhan said that their husbands are detained in Hoa Lo 1 Prison (also known as B 14, Thanh Liet) near Hanoi on charges of “spreading propaganda against the Socialist regime” (Article 88 of the Vietnamese Penal Code). This offence carries penalties ranging from three to twenty years in prison.
From left: Mrs. Bui Thi Re, Mrs. Nguyen Thi Loc, Mr. Nguyen Thanh Giang, Mrs. Ly Thi Tuyet Mai, Mrs. Nguyen Thi Nga and Nguyen Thi Huyen Trang
The women also expressed concern about four other activists, poet Tran Duc Thach, student Ngo Quynh, Nguyen Van Tinh and Ms. Pham Thanh Nghien, arrested on the same day as their husbands, and also detained in Hoa Lo 1 under similar charges. They said that their husbands and friends had simply adhered to “universal values” such as the right to freedom of thought, expression, association, information and the press enshrined in the Vietnamese Constitution and the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The women appealed to the Vietnamese government to “give back the freedom to our husbands so they can return to their families”. They also appealed to the international community to “collectively lend a hand and support us in our efforts to call on the Vietnamese government to stop persecuting the dissidents, give human rights a chance and release our husbands”.
The dissidents were all arrested between 10-25 September 2008 in a government crack-down on peaceful assembly. Many were arrested on the eve of a demonstration planned for 14 September to protest China’s claims to the disputed Spratly and Paracel Islands, over which Vietnam claims sovereignty. This date marks the 50th Anniversary of a Diplomatic Note signed by former North Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Van Dong conceding China claims. Police set up tight controls in Hanoi to prevented the gathering. Other activists were arrested as they attempted to join rallies of Catholics in Thai Ha Parish protesting State confiscation of lands.
“These brave women, who are risking their own safety to win their husbands’ freedom, prove that the authorities will never succeed in stifling free expression”, said Vo Van Ai, President of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights and Quê Me: Action for Democracy in Vietnam. “When one voice is silenced, another speaks out. This will continue until human rights and democratic freedoms are respected in Vietnam.”
Mr. Ai said he had transmitted the case to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion in Geneva, and called on them to intervene. (For full text of the letter).