U.S. Human Rights Commission calls on Vietnam to release political prisoner

Blogger and businessman Tran Huynh Duy Thuc was sentenced to 16 years in 2010.
By RFA Vietnamese
2023.01.30
U.S. Human Rights Commission calls on Vietnam to release political prisoner Mr. Tran Huynh Duy Thuc at his trial in Ho Chi Minh City on January 20, 2010
Photo credit: AFP

The U.S. Congress’ Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission called on Vietnam on Jan. 20 to release prominent political prisoner Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, who has now served 13 years of a 16-year sentence.

Before he was detained, Thuc was a well-known blogger and businessman in Vietnam, working as the general director of One Connection Internet, a phone and internet company.  He was convicted in 2010 on charges including promoting anti-government propaganda and attempting to overthrow the government – charges he denies. 

Several of those convicted in the same case as him have been released before completing their sentences over the past few years.

“For far too long, Vietnam has gotten away with imprisoning peaceful, political activists like Tran Huynh Duy Thuc without facing the kind of international criticism that should be leveled against Hanoi for its systematic rights violations against the dissident movement.” Human Rights Watch’s Deputy Director for Asia Phil Robertson told RFA.

Vietnam holds the second highest number of political prisoners of any of the ASEAN member states, Robertson said. 

“Unless Hanoi stops such rights abusing persecution of its critics, it should face pressure under US trade preference programs and the human rights provisions of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement.

Tran Huynh Duy Tan, Thuc’s younger brother, said his brother’s sentence is not proportional to the sentencing guidelines in Vietnamese law. 

Vietnam’s Penal Code stipulates that a person charged with plans to “overthrow the people’s government,” would be given a one- to five-year prison sentence.  The law came into effect as part of amendments to the Penal Code in 2018. 

Tran Huynh Duy Thuc has submitted several petitions asking to be released based on the new clause. He has also held several hunger strikes, totaling nearly 100 days, to demand the Vietnamese government’s respect for the law.

Several international human rights organizations and major nations, including the U.S. and the EU, have appealed for Thuc’s release.

RFA contacted the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment on the commission’s statement but did not receive a reply. 

Several international human rights organizations and major nations, including the U.S. and the EU, have appealed for Thuc’s release.

“Our family was very happy and grateful for the support of the international community and, most recently, the U.S. Congress’ Human Rights Commission Tom Lantos,” Tan told RFA. “They have always accompanied [us] and taken practical actions to pressure the Vietnamese government and call for the release of Mr. Thuc.”

In May 2019, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, officially sponsored Thuc’s case and called on the Vietnamese government to free him. 

Translated by Anna Vu. Edited by Nawar Nemeh and Malcolm Foster.

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