A court in Vietnam on Tuesday upheld jail terms for three human rights campaigners convicted on charges of conducting anti-state activities after producing and distributing videos which were critical of the country’s ruling Communist party and its leaders.
Vu Quang Thuan, Nguyen Van Dien and Tran Hoang Phuc were convicted in a one-day trial at the Hanoi People’s Court on Jan. 31 of “propaganda against the state” under Article 88 of Vietnam’s Penal Code.
Thuan was sentenced to eight years and six months in prison, Dien to six years and six months in prison, and Phuc to six years in prison. Thuan also received five years of probation, to commence at the end of his jail term, while the other two men were handed four years of probation each.
Following their conviction in January, defense attorney Ha Huy Son told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that his team’s request for the videos the men produced to be shown at the hearing was rejected on the basis that the courtroom lacked the facilities to do so.
The evidence given at trial was never evaluated by the court, and the judge finally ruled based only on the conclusions of Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communication that the videos contained proof of anti-state activity, Son said at the time.
Relatives of the accused were not allowed to attend the trial, and activists said that security forces including plainclothes and uniformed police had guarded their homes for days before the trial to prevent them from traveling to show support.
Ahead of Tuesday’s hearing at the Hanoi Appeal Court, London-based Amnesty International had urged Vietnam to release the three men in a statement that called them “victims of the Vietnamese government’s shameful crackdown on all forms of dissent.”
“These three men have committed no crime; they have merely used social media to express opinions that the authorities do not like–namely by supporting the protection of human rights and social justice in the country,” said Amnesty International’s senior director of global operations Minar Pimple.
“Viet Nam’s long-running use of repressive laws to prosecute and punish peaceful activists must end. As a start, Hanoi’s High Court must … quash all charges against these men and release them.”
Instead, their appeal was rejected.
Authorities have been targeting activist writers and bloggers in a months-long crackdown in one-party Communist Vietnam, where dissident is not tolerated.
Amnesty International says that at least 97 prisoners of conscience are currently being held in Vietnam’s prisons, where many are subjected to torture or other ill-treatment.