Campaign to free activist

Arrested at home and charged with spreading anti-state propaganda

Civil society groups are threatening to step up action against the detention of the human rights campaigner Tran Thi Nga, who has been held in isolation for nearly three weeks.

Her arrest has been denounced by rights campaigners at home and abroad as a particularly egregious violation of Vietnam’s international commitments.

The human rights campaigner and women’s rights activist was seized by police at her home on January 21, just before the Tet holiday, which she was planning to celebrate with her young children.

She has since been charged with spreading propaganda against the state under article 88 of the penal code, one of a number of statutes frequently used by the government to silence independent voices.

More than twenty Vietnamese civil society organisation have signed a petition demanding the immediate release of Nga, who writes under the name of Thuy Nga.

They say they will escalate their activities if there is no response from the authorities.

Some 847 people also put their names to the petition despite the danger of incurring the wrath of the police and other agencies, which closely monitor the activities of activists and bloggers and their supporters.

The petition says that Nga engaged only in peaceful activities to promote human rights and democratic freedoms, rights signed up to by Vietnam in a number of international agreements.

They said she was routinely harassed, and on one occasion violently assaulted and badly injured, during a long campaign of intimidation by the police and their proxies to silence her.

The arrest of Nga and other well known bloggers in recent weeks and months seems aimed at closing down the use of social media as a forum for dissent and protest against government policies.

Her supporters say Nga was apolitical and always espoused peaceful means; she was merely calling for rights and freedoms guaranteed by Vietnamese law.

Her arrest appears to show strength of the government’s new determination to shut up its most vocal critics.

Some 112 bloggers are currently serving prison sentences, or being held awaiting trial, on similar charges.