Vietnam: prominent pro-democracy WHRD handed down 9-year imprisonment (Update)Event
- Viet Nam
- Initial Date
- Dec 14, 2021
- Event Description
A court in Vietnam jailed a journalist and prominent dissident for nine years on Tuesday for anti-state activities, her lawyers and state media said, in a case that attracted the attention of international human rights groups. Pham Doan Trang, who published material widely on human rights and alleged police brutality in Vietnam, was convicted of "conducting propaganda against the state" by a Hanoi court, according to her legal team and state-controlled media. Despite sweeping economic reform and increasing openness to social change, Vietnam's ruling Communist Party retains tight media censorship and tolerates little criticism.
Calls to the court seeking confirmation of the verdict went unanswered on Tuesday.
"It was such a long sentence, close to the maximum term for such activities," said one of her lawyers, Nguyen Van Mieng, adding that Trang did not plead guilty at the trial and they would meet later to discuss a possible appeal. Trang, 43, was detained hours after an annual US-Vietnam human rights dialogue in October last year, an arrest the US embassy said could impact freedom of expression. Dang Dinh Manh, another member of her legal team, said the nine-year sentence was severe. "The sentence is too long. The judges insisted that Trang's activities were dangerous for society and for the administration," Manh said. Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, called the verdict an unacceptable sentence for a brave woman who only spoke her mind. "The imprisonment of such a committed reformer dedicated to promoting human rights, good governance and justice is a searing indictment of everything that is wrong with authoritarian Vietnam today," he said. "In a democratic society, Trang's prolific ideas and writings would be admired and extolled rather than criminalized."
In May 2016, police detained and prevented Trang from attending a meeting with then-US President Barack Obama, who had invited her to join him at an activists' forum. Two years later, she was detained after meeting with a European delegation that was preparing for an annual EU-Vietnam human rights dialogue.
During the one-day trial which failed to meet international standards for a fair trial, the People’s Court of Hanoi found her guilty of “Conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 88 of the country’s Penal Code 1999 which was replaced by the Criminal Code 2015 from 2018.
Ms. Trang, who was honored by a number of international and Vietnamese rights groups such as the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Czech human rights group People In Need, and the California-based Vietnam Human Rights Network, was protected by well-known lawyers including Saigon-based human rights attorneys Dang Dinh Manh and Nguyen Van Mieng. However, the judge reportedly ignored their defense statements.
The sentence was harder than the proposal of between seven and eight years in prison of the People’s Procuracy of Hanoi.
Only Trang’s mother and older brother were permitted to attend the trial while many activists were reportedly held de facto under house arrest from very early of Tuesday. The main roads leading to the court areas were blocked by security forces. Diplomats from the EU and some other countries were monitoring the hearing via TV screen in another room near the courtroom.
Ms. Trang, 43, has a little chance of getting reduced sentence or freed if she appeals today’s judgment.
The former reporter of the state-controlled VnExpress newswire was arrested on October 6 last year, a few hours after the 24th Vietnam-US Annual Human Rights Dialogue. Initially, she was accused of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code 1999 and Article 117 of the Criminal Code 2015 for her writing criticizing the authoritarian regime. Later, the second charge was dropped.
In a meeting with her lawyers before the trial, she said that she was held incommunicado for months and later placed to share a cell with other inmates who tried to beat her seven times but she fought back and won. She has suffered a number of diseases, including high blood pressure, and an injured leg which was a result of plainclothes attack in the peaceful demonstration in Hanoi on May 1, 2015 on environmental issue.
- Impact of Event
- Gender of HRD
- (Arbitrary) Arrest and Detention
- Denial Fair Trial
- Enactment of repressive legislation and policies
- Judicial Harassment
- Rights Concerned
- Right to fair trial
- Right to liberty and security
- Pro-democracy defender
- Monitoring Status
- Event Location
- Event Location
- Summary for Publications
On 14 December 2021, Pham Doan Trang, prominent pro-democracy WHRD, was found guilty under a repressive criminal provision and sentenced to 9-year jail term after a 1-day trial marked with irregularities by the People’s Court of Hanoi, Viet Nam.