03/12/2014, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Vietnamese police fabricates evidence, distorts witness statements to convict blogger

Bui Thi Minh Hang has been in jail for a month with two other people without any indictment. As she continues her hunger strike, police tries to extort false statements against her from five activists. Despite the lack of evidence of any guilt, she could get from three months to three years in prison.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - Five Vietnamese activists refused to sign the police version of statements they gave in relation to blogger who was arrested on spurious criminal charges.

On Monday, the five gave their statements at the Lap Vo police station, in the southern province of Dong Thap, which were however distorted by police.

Investigators fabricated evidence in order to use it in a trial against Bui Thi Minh Hang, a blogger and activist (pictured) in jail along with colleague Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh and Buddhist sect member Hoa Hao Nguyen Van Minh.

All three are charged with "disturbing the public order" and "obstructing traffic", and have been on a hunger strike for more than month to protest against their detention, which they deem "illegal". Increasingly, their families are concerned about their health.

The blogger's lawyer, Tran Nhu Nam, told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that the authorities tried to force five activists - Phan Duc Phuoc, Nguyen Vu Tam, To Van Manh Bui Thi Diem Thuy and Do Thi Thuy Trang - into incriminating Hang by providing false testimony to support the charges against her.

According to the lawyer, police also fabricated part of their statements, which "violates the law," since Vietnam's penal code forbids any kind of coerced testimony. "Fortunately, none of the witnesses signed any papers ... [so] there is no evidence on record."

Nam said he was waiting for the authorities to give the green light to represent his client, and that he was considering lodging a complaint against the investigating officers.

Four of the five activists who were interrogated confirmed that they had been "forced to say what [police] wanted" and that some of their statements had been made up by the authorities.

For Tam Nguyen Vu, the investigators did not write what he said but what they wanted. They also failed to write that as they proceeded to arrest Bui Thi Minh Hang, they also attacked the group of people with whom she was travelling.

Hang, along with 20 other activists, was stopped on 11 February as she went to visit the wife of Nguyen Bac Truyen, a lawyer fighting forced evictions. Eighteen of them were released shortly thereafter, but the blogger remained in jail along with two other people.

According to their families, the authorities have not formally charged any of them and all their requests to visit them in prison were rejected by district and provincial law enforcement agencies.

If Hang is convicted, she could get anywhere between three months and three years in prison even though there is no evidence of guilt.

In recent months, Vietnam's government has been involved in a harsh campaign against dissidents, bloggers, religious leaders (Buddhist included), Catholic activists as well as entire communities as was the case last year in the Diocese of Vinh, when state media and the government organised a smear campaign against the local bishop and members of local congregations.

The repressive arm of the state has also come down hard on individuals just for trying to exercise their right to religious freedom or demand respect for civil rights. Last year, the authorities in fact arrested dozens of activists for crimes "against the state," according to rules that human rights groups describe as too "general" and "vague".

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