WASHINGTON, June 19, 2003--The wife of a Vietnamese dissident handed a stiff sentence this week for spying says government prosecutors called her as the only witness in the case against Dr. Pham Hong Son and permitted her to answer only 'yes' or 'no' in response to questioning, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports.
�The trial was drummed up as an espionage case, and yet the only witness they brought to court was myself,� Son�s wife, Vu Thuy Ha, told RFA's Vietnamese service. �They questioned me twice--once to ask who I am, and a second time to get me to confirm the [espionage] charge. I refused to answer because they only allowed me to say 'yes' or 'no,' which violates Article 185 of the Vietnam Code of Criminal Procedure."
On Wednesday, a Hanoi court handed Son, 35, a 13-year jail term and three years' house arrest for espionage. Last year Son translated a U.S. State Department document titled �What is Democracy?� and posted it to the Internet in Vietnamese. He was arrested on March 27, 2002.
Ha was barred from the courtroom while her husband was present for his trial. "Dr. Pham Hong Son's parents and the rest of the family appeared shocked at the proceedings and the sentence. I had to learn about my husband's sentence from people coming out at the end of the trial," she explained.
The United States has strongly protested the sentence, arguing that "no individual should be imprisoned for the peaceful expression of his views."
"The sentencing of Pham Hong Son clearly violates international standards for the protection of human rights including freedom of expression,� the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi said in a statement.
Son is the third person tried for use of the Internet to push for democracy in Vietnam. Late last year, Le Chi Quang, the first "cyber-dissident" to be brought to trial in Vietnam, was given four years for criticizing the border agreement between China and Vietnam. Earlier this year, Nguyen Khac Toan was charged with espionage for posting information about peasant grievances on the Internet and given 12 years in jail plus four years of house arrest.
RFA broadcasts news and information to Asian listeners who lack regular access to full and balanced reporting in their domestic media. Through its broadcasts and call-in programs, RFA aims to fill a critical gap in the lives of people across Asia. Created by Congress in 1994 and incorporated in 1996, RFA currently broadcasts in Burmese, Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Mandarin, the Wu dialect, Vietnamese, Tibetan (Uke, Amdo, and Kham), and Uyghur. It adheres to the highest standards of journalism and aims to exemplify accuracy, balance, and fairness in its editorial content.