Interview: ‘I have never seen any trial like this before’

Nguyen Thi Nay’s son Nguyen Huu Quoc Duy, 31, was arrested by provincial police on Nov. 21, 2015, after authorities accused him and his cousin, Nguyen Huu Thien An, of using Duy’s Facebook page to incite others to oppose the government. He was sentenced on Aug. 23 to three years in prison by a court in Khanh Hoa’s Nha Trang city under Article 88 of Vietnam’s penal code. Nguyen Thi Nay spoke to Mac Lam of RFA’s Vietnamese service about her ordeal on the trial day and her reaction to the stern sentence.

RFA: What happened on the day of the trial of your son?

Nguyen Thi Nay: The commune police told us before the trial that our son would be tried the next day and we could attend the trial. My husband, two other children and I went to the court the next day, but we could not get in. Police were everywhere. They first asked if we had any invitation from the court and they said that without an invitation, they would not let us in. I asked why not even the parents could attend the trial. One policeman said he would let in my husband only. My husband went ahead, but they stopped him at the gate. They said they now could not let anybody in unless we had an invitation from the court. I shouted: ‘Why can’t I attend the trial of my son?’ Right after that, female police officers surrounded me. I asked one woman why, if she was police, is she hugging me like she was about to pick my pocket. One policeman took my phone from me as soon as I was about to record the scene. He then pushed me into a jeep. They grabbed my arms so tightly that they were bruised. They drove me very far away from the court. They let me stay in a local commune police station. They gave me a loaf of bread to eat and told me that I could only leave when the trial was over.

RFA: Were you able to see Duy when he was in detention?

Nguyen Thi Nay: They never let me see Duy. One time I heard that my son was being kept in Ninh Hoa prison. I brought some food there, but the police looked up my son’s name in the book and told me Duy was not allowed to receive any supplies in Ninh Hoa prison. I asked the provincial police why I could not give my son food and they told me to leave the food there and they would send it to him. I heard that there was no canteen at that prison so every week during that nine-month span, I would send food to him at the prison.

RFA: There is a report that you had asked two lawyers, Vo An Don and Nguyen Kha Thanh, to represent your son. Why was Phan Bach Mai his lawyer at the trial today ?

Nguyen Thi Nay: When I heard that my son would be tried, I went to the prosecutor’s office to inform them that I would invite our own lawyers but they said Duy already chose another lawyer. I sent a complaint because my son was in prison and he did not know any lawyers. How could he have chosen Bach Mai? I went to Bach Mai’s house to ask him why he had agreed to represent my son when he had never met him. He told me that Duy saw him when he was in a prison meeting with another client and Duy asked him to represent him. I asked how much he charged my son, and he said it is free. I was so worried because I did not feel comfortable when he charged nothing. Nobody is so good as to represent a defendant without any fee. I know for sure the police arranged for him to represent my son. I sent a complaint but nobody replied.

RFA: Duy was jailed on charges of conducting propaganda against the state. But what did Duy really do, as far as you know?

Nguyen Thi Nay: He wrote about negative things in society, about corrupt communists. He gave details about some officials who could build houses worth of billions of dong after a few years working in the government. I don’t know all the details about what he wrote, but many people who had read his Facebook page said it was nothing so serious, compared to many others who wrote more serious stuff than him. They took my son too intimidate others

others. My son cursed at the state. The authorities told me that because he cursed at them like that, I was not allowed to see him.

RFA: What do you think about the sentence of three years handed down to Duy at the trial?

Nguyen Thi Nay: I only learned about the verdict in the afternoon after they released me from the station. I was very upset. He should have been acquitted. His lawyer is the police’s man. I’m very upset because my son is innocent. I have never seen any trial like this before. My son is innocent, but they forced the verdict on him and did not let me see him.

Translated by Viet Ha.

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