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Vietnam court charges 7 people for their roles in road demolition protest

Authorities in Vietnam’s Nghe An province have officially charged seven people in connection with a clash with riot police over the demolition of a local road earlier this month, family members said Wednesday.

Ha Thi Hien, Tran Thi Nien, and Bui Van Canh were charged on July 22 with “resisting against officers on official duty,” while Tran Thi Hoa, Bach Thi Hoa, Ha Thi Thoa, and Ha Van Hanh were accused of “disturbing public order,” relatives told RFA Vietnamese.

Family members said they had only learned of the charges – each of which carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison – after receiving a notice from the Nghi Loc District Police Department on Wednesday.

“I am very worried about my wife. They [the police] said she would be held for two months before trial,”  Nguyen Van Duc, the husband of Ha Thi Hien, told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.

“All of my neighbors feel sorry for her, saying that Hien had never said or done anything bad, and ask why she was taken away. Since her arrest, our two young kids have been crying and asking for Mom every night,” he said.

Riot police guard a fence build to stop protestors preventing the demolition of a hundred-year-old road on July 13, 2022. Photo: Citizen Journalist

On July 13, hundreds of riot police descended on Binh Thuan parish in Nghe An’s Nghi Thuan commune as a similar number of protesters attempted to remove a fence blocking a road that connects the parish to an area highway. The road, which had been in use for more than 100 years, is located on land the government granted to a private company for a planned industrial zone.

Police tried to disperse the protesters with smoke grenades and explosives but they fought back.

Ten people were arrested in the clash, during which officials said protesters had “used bricks, stones, bottles, sticks [and petrol bombs], attacked and detained a police officer and injured five other police officers,” according to a statement issued after the incident.

Authorities released one woman the same night and two men three days later. However, the other seven had remained in custody for two weeks before their families were notified of the charges against them on Wednesday.

 The seven are being held at a temporary detention facility during an investigation of their case, which is expected to last until Sept. 10, according to the notice from the Nghe An Police Department, which also claimed that all of the accused had “refused access to a defense lawyer, or did not request one.”

Duc said his wife Hien is innocent and was “only watching the protest” when she was arrested. She did not act against the police, he said.

Duc said he has had to take leave from work to care for his two kids, aged three and six, and his mother, who is more than 80 years old.

Attempts by RFA to contact the Nghi Loc District Police and the lead investigator for the case, Hoang Doanh Toan, went unanswered Wednesday.

Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Eugene Whong.