Members of an environmental protection group jailed two years ago in Vietnam on charges of plotting to overthrow the government are innocent and should be freed, the wife of the group’s leader said this week, adding that she has asked international organizations to intervene in the case.
Twenty-two members of the Council for the Laws and Public Affairs of Bia Son, named for a mountain in south central Vietnam’s coastal Phu Yen province, went on trial on Jan. 28, 2013, with group leader Phan Van Thu, 65, later sentenced to life in prison and 20 others handed lengthy terms.
Group members, many of them elderly and ill, were not involved in politics and had worked only to “protect the environment in the daytime and practice religion at night,” Vo Than Thuy, Thu’s wife, told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
“So why did they accuse us of plotting to overthrow the government?” Vo asked.
Prosecutors in Phu Yen had failed to provide witnesses or evidence of guilt at the group’s five-day trial in Phu Yen, Vo said.
“They talked about ‘hundreds of documents,’ but what were those documents about?” she asked, adding, “We asked them to show those documents to everyone and to give them to the media so that people could see for themselves what the Council really is.”
“But they didn’t present anything they should have,” Vo said.
Appeal for international help
Group members, many of them Buddhist, had worked only to protect the environment and to teach and practice their faith, she said.
“Do we really have justice in this society?” she asked.
On Nov. 21, Vo sent requests to international organizations for help in her husband’s case after appeals were turned down by officials in Hanoi and Da Nang city, to which handling of the case had been transferred, she said.
Included in the petition were the Human Rights Council of the U.N., the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedoms (USCIRF) and other rights advocacy groups, the U.S. State Department, and Western embassies in Hanoi, Vo said, adding that replies to the petition have not yet been received.
Truong Thi Hiep, wife of 51-year-old Council member Le Trong Cu, now serving a 12-year term, told RFA that her husband like other members of the group had done nothing for which he deserved to be jailed.
“We have sent so many petitions and letters, but this government does only what it wants," she said.
Reported by Gia Minh for RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Richard Finney.