Vietnam Appeals Court Upholds Jail Term for Land-Grab Protester

Can Thi Theu must now serve 20 months for protesting eviction from her family farm, the court says.

Can Thi Theu stands to hear the appeal court's decision, Hanoi, Nov. 30, 2016.

A court in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi on Wednesday upheld the conviction of land-grab protester Can Thi Theu, sending her back to prison to serve a 20-month term imposed in September, sources said.

Theu, 54, had been tried on charges of public disorder after being arrested in June for protesting government-sanctioned evictions used to clear the way for commercial development in Duong Noi village outside Hanoi.

It was the second time Theu had been convicted for opposing land grabs. In 2014 she was sentenced to 15 months in jail for her role in a similar protest.

Today’s court decision effectively ends Theu’s rights of appeal, Theu’s lawyer Ha Huy Son told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.

“According to the law, there are no more courts that we can appeal to after this. Now, we can only ask for a reconsideration of her case,” Son said.

“We don’t know if she will want her case to be reconsidered, but she protests today’s verdict,” he said.

“This is an unjust sentence that has been set up to put her in jail, to make it easier [for the authorities] to seize people’s land, and to deny the people’s right to complain.”

'Organized robbers'

Also speaking to RFA, Theu’s son Trinh Ba Phuong said that his mother had denounced the court and Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party as “organized robbers” during today’s hearing.

“Justice in Vietnam is a comedian,” Phuong said.

While all land in Vietnam is ultimately held by the state, land confiscations have become a flashpoint as residents accuse the government of pushing small landowners aside in favor of lucrative real estate projects, and of paying too little in compensation to those whose land is taken.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch Asia division deputy director Phil Robertson urged Vietnam to immediately release Theu from confinement, adding, “peacefully protesting the unjust confiscation of land should not be considered a crime.”

“After all, how can a farmer like Can Thi Theu survive if the land that she farms, which is the one thing that sustains her, is stripped away?”

Reported by Cat Linh and Gia Minh for RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Richard Finney.