Vietnam Democracy Advocates Lose Appeal in Court Ruling

Four members of the online Brotherhood For Democracy group are sent back to prison to serve out their sentences.

Brotherhood For Democracy members are shown at their sentencing in Hanoi, April 5, 2018.

An appeals court in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi today upheld jail terms handed down by a lower court on April 5 to four members of the online advocacy group Brotherhood for Democracy, according to a note posted on Monday on the Facebook page of their defense lawyer.

Pham Van Troi, an engineer, had been sentenced to seven years in prison followed by a year under house arrest. Nguyen Trung Ton, a pastor, had been given a 12-year term and three years of house arrest. Nguyen Bac Truyen, an entrepreneur, had received an 11-year term and three years of house arrest, and Truong Minh Duc, a labor activist, had been sentenced to 12 years imprisonment and three years of house arrest.

All four had campaigned for human rights and democracy in Vietnam, and were convicted of conducting activities “aimed at overthrowing the state” under Article 79 of Vietnam’s Penal Code.

Two others sentenced on April 5—human rights lawyer and Brotherhood founder Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant, Le Thu Ha, who had also been handed long prison terms—had refused to appeal their sentences, citing distrust of Vietnam’s courts.

In a June 4 statement, rights group Amnesty International slammed today’s ruling by the appeals court, calling it “a deeply unjust decision that consigns four men, who have done nothing more than peacefully defend human rights, to years behind bars.”

“Vietnam must immediately cease its ongoing crackdown on dissent and stop throwing human rights defenders in jail,” Minar Pimple, Amnesty’s Senior Director of Global Operations, said, adding, “These prisoners, along with others who are unfairly held behind bars, must be released."

Also responding to today’s court decision, Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson said, “These four activists have campaigned tirelessly to demand Vietnam respect human rights and adopt democratic principles, and now they are unjustly heading back to prison to serve long sentences for daring to write and peacefully advocate for change.”

“Vietnam must end its systematic repression against human rights defenders who simply seek to reform the government in the country where they live,” Robertson said.

Communist Vietnam, where all media are state-controlled, does not tolerate dissent, and rights groups identify Article 79 as among a set of vague provisions that authorities have used to detain dozens of writers and bloggers.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Richard Finney.