Responding to the conviction of prominent land rights activists Trinh Ba Tu and Can Thi Theu, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Research, Emerlynne Gil, said:
“This conviction is a travesty of justice. Can Thi Theu and her son, Trinh Ba Tu, are brave human rights defenders who should be protected by the Vietnamese government, not harassed and locked away.
“Can Thi Theu and Trinh Ba Tu should never have been arrested in the first place, let alone convicted of bogus charges. They are clearly being punished in retaliation for their peaceful activism to expose injustices and human rights violations. Sadly, in Viet Nam, the peaceful defence of human rights is enough to face a lengthy prison term.
“The authorities in Viet Nam should overturn this unjust conviction without delay and immediately and unconditionally release Can Thi Theu and Trinh Ba Tu. They were convicted solely for peacefully exercising their human rights. The Vietnamese authorities must release all those unjustly imprisoned in Vietnamese jails.”
Trinh Ba Tu and Can Thi Theu were both sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment followed by three years’ probation after being convicted for “making, storing, or spreading information, materials or items for the purpose of opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam” by the People’s Court of Hoa Binh province today.
Can Thi Theu is a well-known land rights activist and human rights defender in Viet Nam. She became an activist after her family’s land was confiscated by the authorities in 2010. She began advocating against forced evictions and became a leading figure of the land rights movement.
In 2014, Can Thi Theu and her husband, Trinh Ba Khiem, were arrested while filming a forced eviction and later were convicted by the People’s Court of Ha Dong district. Can Thi Theu was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment and her husband was given an 18-month sentence. Both were charged under Article 257 of the 1999 Criminal Code for “resisting persons in the performance of their official duties”.
In June 2016, Can Thi Theu was arrested again for leading a peaceful protest at the Central Citizen Committee office to demand justice for people whose land were confiscated. She was tried in September the same year by the People’s Court of Dong Da district and convicted and sentenced to one year and eight months in prison for “resisting persons in the performance of their official duties” under Article 257 of the 1999 Criminal Code.
After the imprisonment of their parents, Trinh Ba Tu and Trinh Ba Phuong also became activists and human rights defenders. They became leading figures of the land rights movement while their parents were in prison. Upon her release from prison, Can Thi Theu continued her land rights activism together with her sons.
In January 2020, police raided the village of Dong Tam in Ha Noi in a clash in which an 84-year-old village leader and three police officers were killed. Authorities also arrested dozens of villagers in relation to the high-profile land dispute between the government and the local community. Can Thi Theu and her two sons, Trinh Ba Tu and Trinh Ba Phuong, played prominent roles in informing the public about the incident through their social media platforms.
On 24 June 2020, police arrested Can Thi Theu, Trinh Ba Phuong and Trinh Ba Tu. The three were charged for “making, storing, or spreading information, materials or items for the purpose of opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code. Trinh Ba Phuong remains in pre-trial detention.