Three Vietnamese Activists Jailed on ‘Politically-Motivated’ Charges

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Activist Bui Thi Minh Hang (R) shouts anti-China slogans during a protest in downtown Hanoi, July 24, 2011.
Activist Bui Thi Minh Hang (R) shouts anti-China slogans during a protest in downtown Hanoi, July 24, 2011.

Three activists in Vietnam were sentenced on Tuesday to up to three years in jail on what human rights activists call phony and politically motivated charges of causing public disorder after a one-day trial in a southern province.

The activists were accused by the authoritarian government of causing public disorder by creating a “serious obstruction to traffic” while they were on their way to visit a former political prisoner in February.

The People’s Court of Dong Thap province ordered prominent blogger Bui Thi Minh Hang to be imprisoned for three years, while fellow blogger Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh received a two-year sentence,  and Nguyen Van Minh, a Hao Hao Buddhist sect follower, got a two-and-a-half-year term.

Police had held more than 50 supporters of the defendants in a bid to prevent them from attending the one-day trial held amid tight security, a blogger told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.

None of the relatives of the three activists were allowed in the courtroom during the proceedings.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch condemned the sentences, saying the Vietnamese government made up the charges to punish the three for their activism.

“The sentencing of these three activists to prison terms on such bogus charges is outrageous and underscores the ease with which the government and the [Communist] party have their way with the country’s politically controlled courts,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, told RFA.

“Bui Thi Minh Hang and her colleagues have been railroaded into prison for simply exercising their right to associate and assemble with other persons, and for daring to use their voices to show solidarity for others facing persecution at the hands of the Vietnamese government,” he said.

The verdicts did not come as a surprise to the trio’s lawyers and family members.

“In any country that has no rule of law, a person could be found guilty for whatever reason [the government wanted],” Ha Huy Son, one of four lawyers representing the activists, told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.

Tran Bui Trung, the son of Bui Thi Minh Hang, told RFA that he and his family were “very disappointed” by the verdict.

Other arrests

Prior to the trial, local police were deployed around the courthouse to prevent supporters of the three accused and other activists from attending the trial, the human rights website Vietnam Right Now reported.

Activists in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City had been confined to their homes, while some of those who made it to the province were arrested or locked in their hotels.

On the eve of the trial, local police raided the hotel where Bui Thi Minh Hang’s daughter and son-in-law were staying and confiscated their national identification cards in an attempt to prevent them from attending the trial, the report said.

The U.S. government expressed alarm over the jailing.

“The use of public disorder laws by Vietnamese authorities to imprison government critics for peacefully expressing their political views is alarming,” the U.S. embassy in Hanoi said in a statement Tuesday, calling for the unconditional release of all political prisoners.

Approximately 150 to 200 activists and bloggers are serving prison time in Vietnam simply for exercising their basic rights, activist groups say.  

Although Vietnam is a member of the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council, it has been criticized by international human rights groups for harassing and jailing bloggers and government critics as well as repressing religion freedom.

Reported by An Nguyen for RFA's Vietnamese Service. Translated by Khanh Nguyen. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Comments (5)

Born to Be Free

For good people, born to be free not meant to be wild;wild is for the low life and the criminals whose jail cells and grave yard are awaiting .
A person who doesn't like freedom is a cow that is being used to pull plow all day long with the rewards of countless whips on its back ,then near the end of its life,it would be taken to the slaughter house for meat market. A person who likes tyrannical regime is the parliament member himself(a true thug) who dirtily benefits from the inhuman system of communism. Some days you will get to taste your own medicine,then you will see how precious freedom is .
How can you sincerely respect others by shutting their mouths,eyes and ears from talking,seeing and hearing the truths ?
How can you sincerely respect others by cracking down and cover up when they speak the truth ?

Sep 12, 2014 11:00 PM

Ho Xhitminh again. Born to be free or to be wild? Everytime, when I recalled the wildest traffic scene in Vietnam I wondered whether the US was FREE or Vietnam was FREER.
Freedom means the sincerest respecting of the freedom of the others. Every country has its own laws. Even in Vietnam or China. The US Homeland Security laws are the strictest in the world. Vietnam with its "laws" is, well, nothing (exp. the wild traffic scene in Hanoi or Saigon). Also, don't cry for anything when you yourself don't respect the laws. Born to be free...LOL Are you REALLY free of any obligation to your parents, to your society and to your fellow countrymen? If yes, then, indeed, you're very FREE and WILD.

Aug 30, 2014 04:59 AM

Born to Be Free

LOL! Ferguson is one of three or four cases happened in the last 30 years,and that is personal act,not government act.It's a thousand to one compared to What communist Viet been secretly used its inhuman and brutal acts on people .Even though strong arm robbery was committed by that dead teen, through attorney works and free investigation, People of Ferguson will have a chance to see justice for that dead teen. Vietnamese people will never see true justice as long as the One Party Communist Government still running the country.No attorney,no jury,no fair trial in communist court means no justice..No human rights....

Aug 28, 2014 01:32 AM

Anonymous Reader

I myself an American and know what happened/happens in my country. Furthermore, I was in Vietnam for 2 years and I knew a bit about Vietnam. Are you ever in the US? Do you really KNOW the US judiciary system? I doubt. Btw, it's your country and why you cry for OUR help?

Aug 29, 2014 01:25 PM

Ho Xhitminh

I despise the Vietcong pigs and whatever they did with these people. BUT if the Vietnamese don't stand up and defy the VC then who else does? An outcry to the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch is not only ridiculous, but also very childish. The US itself is not the best paragon of "Human Rights". At least the VC didn't shoot, but the US sheriffs did. FYI: Read this "Ferguson shooting & protests"

Aug 27, 2014 08:00 AM

Anonymous Reader

The United States keep selling weaponry to CSVN, Human Rights is a joke.

Aug 26, 2014 05:37 PM

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