Vietnamese blogger sentenced to 5 years after trial without defense lawyer

Le Anh Hung’s mother had to call police investigators to find out his sentence.
By RFA Vietnamese
2022.09.08
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Vietnamese blogger sentenced to 5 years after trial without defense lawyer Blogger Le Anh Hung
Facebook: Le Anh Hung

The family of a Vietnamese political dissident say it took a week for them to find out the outcome of his trial, which took place without a defense lawyer.

Le Anh Hung was sentenced to five years in prison on August 30 after spending more than four years in a mental hospital and on remand.

The blogger was tried on the charge of "abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State, organizations and individuals,” under Article 331 of the Criminal Code.

“Recently, I called the police officer investigating my son’s case to ask about it. He said my son was tried on August 30. I asked how many years [the sentence was]. He said five years,” Hung’s mother Tran Thi Niem told RFA.

The Hanoi police investigator also told Niem that, after subtracting more than four years in a detention center and a psychiatric hospital, "he will probably be released next year."

RFA called the mobile number of the Hanoi City Police investigator who handled the case, but no one answered.

Our reporter also tried to call the Hanoi People's Court using the phone number listed on the agency's website but the line was always busy.

The state-controlled press has made no mention of the trial.

Lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng, from the Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association, signed a contract to provide legal assistance to Hung, but Hung later waived his right to a lawyer after his family had a “financial disagreement” with Mieng.

"Hung had a document allowing him to refuse a lawyer after he got out of the mental hospital,” Mieng said. “I had only met him once so the security investigators told me not to continue."

Mieng was not informed about the trial since he was no longer the dissident's defense attorney.

Hung, born in 1973, was a blogger for Voice of America, specializing in writing about politics in Vietnam.

He is a member of two civic organizations that are not recognized by the Vietnamese government: The Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam and the Brotherhood for Democracy. The two organizations have been suppressed in the past few years and dozens of members have been sent to prison with lengthy sentences.

Hung was arrested on July 5, 2018 after sending hundreds of petitions to a variety of central agencies accusing then-Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai of smuggling and spying for China.

In April 2019, the investigating agency sent Hung to the Central Institute of Forensic Psychiatry forcing him to be treated for an alleged mental illness. During that time his family say he was drugged and abused.

In May this year, after more than three years of forced psychiatric treatment, the police agency brought Hung back to Detention Center No. 1 under the authority of the Hanoi Police Department to await his trial

Immediately after news of his arrest, Amnesty International issued a statement condemning the move and saying the Vietnamese government was using harsh laws to silence peaceful critics. 

Since the beginning of the year, Vietnam has sentenced at least 21 bloggers and activists. Ten of them were convicted of "abusing democratic freedoms" with sentences ranging from one to five years in prison.

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