Mother and son sentenced to 16 years for defending land rights in VietnamPublished: May 10, 2021 Reading time: 3 minutes
Only a few weeks before the national elections, Vietnam sentenced land rights defender Can Thi Theu and her son Trinh Ba Tu to 16 years in prison under charges of “anti-state propaganda.”
On May 5 2021 the trial of Can Thi Theu and her son Trinh Ba Tu resulted in 8 years of imprisonment and 3 years of probation afterwards for each of them. Both were charged under Article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code for creating, storing, and disseminating “anti-state documents.”
Can Thi Theu, her two sons Trinh Ba Tu and Trinh Ba Phuong, and Nguyen Thi Tam were arrested on June 24 2020 due to their activities related to the deadly clash in Dong Tam between security forces and locals. The evidence brought against Theu and Tu is 8 videos they posted on Facebook that followed the Dong Tam clash, according to their lawyer.
In the trial, Can Thi Theu said that during the first week of her arrest, she was not granted access to clean drinking water and did not receive clothes that her family sent in. She was also denied medical assistance when injured and bleeding from an inmates’ fight. In addition, Trinh Ba Tu accused an investigator of verbal intimidations.
Can Thi Theu started her engagement in civil society in 2007 when her family farm was confiscated and unfairly compensated for a “city development project.” Since then Theu has campaigned against land grabbing in Hanoi and the surrounding provinces, protesting against environmental degradation and violation of human rights. Theu is no stranger to the Vietnamese prisons: she had been jailed twice – for 15 months in 2014 under the charge of “resisting on-duty officers,” for shooting a film about a case of land seizure, and for 20 months in 2016 on charges of “causing public disorder” for engaging in demonstrations.
Her younger son Trinh Ba Tu began his civil engagement when he witnessed backlashes against his parents from the authorities for their civil society work. In 2015, he and several other activists were brutally beaten by a plainclothes mob while picking his father up from prison. In August 2020, Trinh Ba Tu went on hunger strike for approximately 20 days to protest his unfair detention and support other prisoners of conscience.
Trinh Ba Phuong (Theu’s eldest son) and Nguyen Thi Tam (another land rights activist) have still been held incommunicado since their arrests without access to their family and lawyers. The date of their trial has not been decided.
The verdicts against Can Thi Theu and Trinh Ba Tu are the newest blow of judicial attacks against activists involved in reporting Dong Tam – a prominent case of land grabbing in Vietnam since 2010. The authorities arrested Pham Doan Trang in October 2020, one of the authors of the independent Dong Tam Report, and recently Nguyen Thuy Hanh in April 2021, who raised over 500 million VND (about 21,700 USD) to support the family of the late Le Dinh Kinh, one of those killed during the police clash.