February 23, 2016
Tran Minh Nhat, a former prisoner of conscience, was stoned on the head and threatened by local authorities that they would burn his house down. This latest attack on February 22 follows months of harassment including pesticides being spread around his home killing off the family’s livelihood, a large fire lit in his garden, and the poisoning of hundreds of his pepper vines. Even Nhat’s older brother, Tran Khac Dat, had his house raided while he was tending to Nhat following the incident.
Tran Minh Nhat was released from prison in August 2015 after four years of arbitrary detention. He had been convicted alongside 13 other activists for “attempting to overthrow the government.” In an opinion announced in November 2013, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled that the arrest and trial of Tran Minh Nhat violated international law and called on the Vietnamese authorities to compensate him for the arbitrary detention. Prior to his arrest, Nhat was a community organizer and contributor for independent media outlets Vietnam Redemptorist News and Radio Alphonso.
In a statement before the Congressional Caucus on Vietnam, Stanford Law School’s Allen Weiner (international attorney for Tran Minh Nhat and colleagues) said that the Vietnamese Government used “vague and standardless provisions of Vietnamese law, implemented by a judiciary that is controlled by the government, to stifle dissent and challenges to human rights abuses.”
According to Tran Minh Nhat, security police from Lam Ha District, Lam Dong Province have been stoning his house every night since the Lunar New Year. In one incident, the stones broke windows and outdoor lamps.
Family members were also threatened and harassed by local authorities. In a report by Front Line Defenders, his older brother had coffee plants and avocado trees chopped and irrigation equipment destroyed on Christmas Eve. His father and older brothers have also received death threats by Lam Ha security police.
Tran Minh Nhat was previously physically attacked by local police, both in uniform and plain clothes, in November 2015 on his return home from health checks in Saigon. As reported by Radio Free Asia, Nhat was held by the neck and punched several times in the stomach while he was in custody. A week after this attack, Nhat was grabbed by the neck and physically assaulted again by local police near his home.
In light of these incidents, we call on foreign embassies in Hanoi to make every effort to visit Tran Minh Nhat and monitor these acts of intimidation. Vietnamese authorities must immediately cease their harassment and ensure that officials directly responsible for the physical attacks against Tran Minh Nhat are brought to justice.