An appeals court in Vietnam’s central Nghe An province today upheld a 14-year prison term handed in February to environmental activist Hoang Duc Binh, sending him back to prison to serve his sentence, Binh’s lawyer told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
Binh, a blogger on environmental issues, had been charged under Articles 257 and 258 of Vietnam’s penal code for “abusing democratic freedoms” and obstructing officials in the performance of their duties, sources said.
He was arrested on May 15, 2017, by police officers who dragged him from a car more than a year after organizing protests over the government’s response to a waste spill the year before by a Taiwan-owned Formosa Plastics Group steel plant.
The spill killed an estimated 115 tons of fish and left fishermen jobless in four coastal provinces.
Speaking to RFA by phone, Binh’s lawyer Ha Huy Son said that prosecutors had failed both in Binh’s initial trial and at today’s appeal hearing to present direct evidence against him.
“They relied only on the unsupported testimony of traffic policemen to convict him,” Son said, adding that Binh had been beaten by other prisoners in his cell following his arrest.
“He told me that before his appearance in the lower court, he had been kept in a cell with prisoners under sentence of death, who had physically attacked him,” Son said.
In an April 23 statement, Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director for Human Rights Watch, said that Binh’s only “crime” has been to demand that Vietnam’s government respect human rights.
“[But] in Vietnam’s one party dictatorship that’s enough for an outrageously long prison sentence,” Robertson said.
Vietnam should immediately drop all charges against Binh and free him and other political prisoners held in the country’s jails, he said.
“Until then, international trade partners and donors should publicly pressure Vietnam to end its intensifying crackdown against activists that has made it one of the worst rights abusing governments in Southeast Asia,” Robertson said.
Meanwhile, a blogger held in northern Vietnam’s Hoa Binh province on charges of having worked to overthrow the government has been hospitalized after suffering ill treatment in prison, his daughter told RFA on April 23.
Dao Quang Thuc, a retired teacher detained for his writings on Facebook, was first sent on April 13 to a local hospital but was later transferred to a hospital run by the police, his daughter Dao Ngoc Binh Quynh Trang said.
“He complains of constant pain. His blood pressure is elevated, and he has headaches,” Trang said.
Trang said that she and her mother tried to visit Thuc at the hospital on April 21, but were refused access by the police.
“My father was inside that room and shouted out for us to hear,” she said.
“He said that he had not been given enough to eat during the first two months he was in jail, and was not allowed to receive supplies from his family. He said that he was continually interrogated by four policemen who beat him,” she said.
Arrested on Oct. 5, 2017 by Hoa Binh provincial police, Thuc was charged under Article 79 of Vietnam’s penal code, a vaguely worded provision frequently used by authorities to silence human rights and environmental activists and other dissenting voices in Vietnam.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Richard Finney.