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Vietnam police extend detention of former prisoner of conscience

Le Minh The. (88 Project/Released)
October 05, 2023

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

Police in the southern Vietnamese city of Can Tho have extended the pre-trial detention of former political prisoner Le Minh The, his family told Radio Free Asia on Sunday. 

They only found out that he was being held for additional questioning when they visited him in a detention center last month, they said.

The, 60, was released from prison in July 2020 after serving a two-year term for “abusing democratic freedoms” under the controversial Article 331 of Vietnam’s criminal code.

On Feb. 22 this year, he was arrested again on the same charge.

According to Vietnam’s criminal procedure code the investigations can last up to three months and can be extended twice, the first for as long as three months and the second not exceeding two months.

The’s daughter Le Thi Nghia Tinh, told RFA she and her mother met him at Long Tuyen temporary detention center on Aug. 1. 

“My father did not confess so the police could not finish the investigation and were forced to extend it,” she said. 

“However, my family was not informed about the extension of the investigation.

“My father also said that his trial could be in … December this year.”

The maximum sentence under Clause 2 of Article 3 is seven years but The told his family he does not want them to hire a lawyer.

RFA called Binh Thuy District Police, but the person on the phone asked the reporter to go to the agency’s headquarters to get information.

When The was arrested for the second time, state media quoted information from local police saying that The regularly posted and shared articles and images with illegal content on his personal Facebook page. However, the newspapers did not name any specific articles.

In The’s 2019 trial he was accused of using Facebook to broadcast live propaganda defaming the Communist Party of Vietnam and the state.

He was accused of destroying national unity, causing division between the people and the party and state; causing harm to national political order and threatening security and social safety.

The indictment also accused The of colluding with domestic and foreign “reactionary subjects” to exchange information, call for protests, demand regime replacement and a multi-party system.

Rights groups have said that Article 331 is used by the government  to silence dissenting voices and repress the people. 

Vietnam has arrested at least 18 people and convicted nine for violating Article 331 since January this year, according to RFA statistics.