Ailing Vietnam journalist Pham Doan Trang faces appeal in Hanoi

Her lawyer says successful appeals of national security-related convictions are rare.
By RFA Vietnamese
2022.08.24
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Ailing Vietnam journalist Pham Doan Trang faces appeal in Hanoi Journalist Pham Doan Trang in an undated photo from her Facebook page.
Pham Doan Trang

Award-winning Vietnamese journalist Pham Doan Trang is in increasingly poor health as she heads back to court this week to appeal her nine-year jail sentence for “conducting anti-state propaganda,” her lawyer told RFA on Wednesday.

The appeal trial at Hanoi High People’s Court in the Vietnamese capital is Thursday, and her lawyers have told RFA the result depends on whether or not she pleads guilty at Hanoi’s High People’s Court, 

“I think her health was pretty poor. She was very sick,” Dang Dinh Manh, one of the four defense lawyers at her first-instance trial, told RFA Vietnamese after two recent meetings with Trang in prison.

“She was having sinusitis after getting COVID. And she had had knee pain before being arrested, so it was very hard for her to walk and she could not squat,” he said, adding that she also suffered from heavy menstrual bleeding.

“These three issues have damaged her health. In response to our questions, she said she had received almost no treatment from the detention center although she updated them about her health quite regularly,” added Dang.

Trang’s knee pain stems from her having been beaten up by security forces during the demonstrations in March 2015 to protest against Hanoi municipal authority’s decision to cut down thousands of old trees in the city center.

Manh said that his client has always denied the accusations against her and stateed that what she had done was in line with the universal rights in the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

“Trang reckons that she has only exercised the right to freedom of speech and of the press. Especially as she used to be a journalist, she thought she had the responsibility to cover the country’s issues,” he said.

Trang has been presented with many prestigious international awards, including the U.S. State Department’s International Women of Courage Award and Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Prize.

PEN America issued a statement on Monday calling on the Vietnamese government to repeal Trang’s nine year sentence and to release her immediately.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also urged the Vietnamese government free Trang. The organization plans to present its 2022 International Press Freedom Award to her in New York in November.

Vietnam ranked as the world’s fourth-worst jailer of journalists, with at least 23 imprisoned for their work, according to the CPJ’s 2021 prison census.

Trang has not been allowed to see her family since she was arrested in October 2020, and her mother, Bui Thi Thien Can, told RFA that family members requested to attend the appeal trial, but had not received any response from authorities.

Her lawyer Mang predicted that no positive outcome could be expected from the appeal trial.

“Changes in sentences or charges are very unlikely at trials related to national security crimes. However, we’ll still be very dedicated and prepared and will defend our client to the best of our ability,” he said.

Translated by Anna Vu. Written by Paul Eckert.

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