BANGKOK—The lawyer for a Vietnamese democracy activist convicted of anti-government activities has called the man’s sentence “unfair” and vowed to appeal the case to Vietnam’s highest court.
Pham Van Troi, 37, had been charged under Article 88 of Vietnam’s legal code with “spreading propaganda” against the state and was handed a four-year prison term in a trial that ended Thursday.
Prosecutors had accused Pham of sending e-mails and exchanging documents calling for multiparty democracy in Vietnam.
“The verdict is unfair,” Pham’s lawyer Huynh Van Dong said in an interview following the trial.
“Justice was not done in this trial.”
“We will appeal to the Supreme People’s Court. We hope they will re-try the case, and we hope the verdict will be changed.”
Two other men—Tran Duc Thach, 57, and Vu Van Hung, 37—were each sentenced to three-year terms in separate trials for publishing articles criticizing Vietnam’s government and for hanging “anti-State” banners in public places in Hanoi.
Vietnam’s official Voice of Vietnam said all three had abused their “right to freedom of democracy and speech” by “reducing public trust in the [Communist] Party and the State.”
Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director for the Washington office of Human Rights Watch, called the men’s arrests and trials “completely unjustified.”
“Since when does writing poems or hanging banners on bridges calling for democracy threaten national security?”
Richardson said Vietnam lists “abusing democratic freedoms” as a criminal offense.
“Well, what’s a democratic freedom? According to whom? How is that interpreted? It is such an incredibly arbitrary charge.”
The Vietnamese government “needs to stop locking people up for doing nothing more than peacefully expressing their political beliefs,” Richardson said.
Vietnam’s Communist Party wields decisive control over politics, religion, media, and academia, and has recently stepped up a crackdown on dissent, online and elsewhere.
Hanoi drew international criticism recently when it arrested, then released, three bloggers whose online writings diverged from the official line.
Original reporting by RFA's Vietnamese service. Vietnamese service director: Diem Nguyen. Written for the Web in English by Richard Finney. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.