Le Thu Ha
Current Status: Released
Other Names: Lê Thu Hà
Date of Birth: September 8, 1982
Areas of Activism:
- Human rights
- Brotherhood for Democracy
- Luong Tam TV
- Art. 79
Germany has confirmed that human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and activist Le Thu Ha have arrived in the country after being released from prison and immediately forced into exile on June 7. They arrived along with Vu Minh Khanh, Dai's wife, and will now begin the asylum process.
Vu Minh Khanh, Nguyen Van Dai, and Le Thu Ha, Source: Vu Minh Khanh Facebook account
Prior to 2011, Lê Thu Hà was an English language tutor in Hanoi. She is a lawyer by training.
In 2011, Ha began posting critical views of the government on social media and, in 2013, she joined the Brotherhood for Democracy, which is an online network of activists based in Vietnam that advocates for human rights as defined by the 2014 Constitution and international agreements, such as the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. She served as the secretary of the Brotherhood for Democracy. In 2014, Hà and fellow member of the Brotherhood, lawyer Nguyễn Văn Đài, began providing free English classes for students with an interest in making positive social and political change in Vietnam.
Ha also established Conscience TV in 2015, of which she was the Chief Editor for programming.
In May 2015, she was barred from travelling to Sweden for a conference, and her passport was confiscated. She was arrested and detained for one day in September 2015 along with five other activists for launching an independent human rights news television station linked to the Brotherhood for Democracy.
Hà has never participated in or supported any form of violent protest.
On December 16, 2015, Hà was arrested in her office at the Brotherhood for Democracy on 10 Đoàn Trần Nghiệp Street, Hanoi. The police arrested her after she refused to allow them to search the office. Some days afterwards, the police issued an arrest warrant for Hà on charges of “propaganda against the socialist state,” under Article 88 of the 1999 Criminal Code.
Authorities charged Ha and Dai under Article 79, which made it unclear if their original charge under Article 88 still stands. They also extended both pre-trial detentions for up to 20 months more.
After 842 days - over two years and three months - in pre-trial detention, Le Thu Ha and her colleague Nguyen Van Dai had a trial date set. They were charged under Article 79 for alleged subversive activities and were to be tried along with Pham Van Troi, Nguyen Trung Ton, Nguyen Bac Truyen, and Truong Minh Duc by the People's Court of Hanoi on April 5.
In an interview with SBTN on March 30, 2018, Le Thu Ha's mother said that Ha refused to hire a lawyer to defend her. Ha said she had not done anything illegal, and will represent herself at the trial.
On April 5, in a one-day trial, six activists, whose backgrounds range from defending religious freedom, to environmental rights, to multi-party democracy, were sentenced to a combined 66 years in prison and 17 years of house arrest under Article 79 of the 1999 Criminal Code. Le Thu Ha was sentenced to 9 years in prison and two years of house arrest.
Le Thu Ha is not doing well in prison. She is very thin and weak and engaged in a hunger strike. In an interview with SBTN on March 30, 2018, prior to Ha's trial, her mother also shared that the last time she saw Ha on February 9, 2018, Ha appeared to be in a mental breakdown, but she continued to maintain her innocence and assured her family not to worry about her. Her family is struggling to support her, as her mother is the sole provider in the family.
Before the arrest: Healthy
After the arrest: In an interview with SBTN on March 30, 2018, Le Thu Ha's mother shared that the last time she saw Ha on February 9, 2018, Ha appeared to be in a mental breakdown, but she continued to maintain her innocence and assured her family not to worry about her.
Amnesty International released an Urgent Action, warning against possible ill treatment in prison.
73 parliament members from 14 countries sent a letter to Vietnam's Prime Minister calling for Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thu Ha's release.
A group of 26 international organizations called for Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thu Ha's release in a joint statement.
Governments, advocacy groups, and individuals alike have condemned the harsh sentences against Ton and his co-defendants. “The Vietnamese government should thank them for their efforts to improve the country instead of arresting and putting them on trial," said Human Rights Watch's Asia Director, Brad Adams, in a statement ahead of the trial. The Spokesperson of the EU External Action division noted in their statement that the rights exercised by the defendants are "guaranteed by the Vietnamese Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights." The United Kingdom's Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister, Harriett Baldwin, agreed that peaceful expression of one's opinions should not be considered a crime. Heather Nauert, US State Department Spokesperson, also supported other governments and organizations in calling for the release of the prisoners and for Vietnam to uphold international obligations. "Individuals have the right to the fundamental freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, both online and offline," she said in her statement.
Le Thu Ha's Facebook
Luong Tam (Conscience) TV YouTube channel
Dan Luan archives
The 88 Project's archives
Defend the Defenders's archives
Six Vietnamese Activists Sentenced for 'Subversion' in Hanoi Trial, Radio Free Asia, April 5, 2018
Vietnam expels dissident human-rights lawyer, Financial Times, June 7, 2018
Profile last updated: 2018-06-12 00:33:02