Quote attributable to Phil Robertson Human Rights Watch – appeals trial today of Dieu Cay, Ta Phong Tan, and Phan Thanh Hai


VRNs (Dec 28th, 2012) – New York, USA - “Today’s trial of Dieu Cay and colleagues is all about Vietnam’s courts and government using a holiday week to try and duck criticism from foreign diplomats and the UN for its continuing crackdown on the right to freedom of expression.  None of these three founding members of the Club for Free Journalists – Nguyen Van Hai (Dieu Cay), Ta Phong Tan and Phan Thanh Hai (Anhbasg) – should have been arrested in the first place, much less persecuted, for exercising their right to express their views in various forms, including their on-line blogs.  The government should release them and other imprisoned for peacefully expressing their views, and cease prosecutions of all those being targeted for expressing views that contradict the government’s preferred narrative. These Club members are just the latest and most prominent persons in the at least 40 bloggers, activists, and dissidents who have been put on trial and convicted in Vietnam in 2012.  Of this number, at least 18 were charged with article 88 of Vietnam’s penal code for ‘conducting propaganda’ against the government.  But given the governments’ iron lock on the Vietnam judiciary and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s order in September to crackdown on dissident websites and blogs, it’s likely the court will rule as ordered by government leaders and these three activists will be condemned to serve out their long prison sentences.  This whole episode shows how the government’s control continues to be built on the systematic suppression of core civil and political rights, with long sentences like these against the three prominent bloggers intended to deepen a climate of intimidation and fear.”  

Background information:

On the morning of December 28, 2012, the People’s Supreme Court will conduct appeal hearing for bloggers Nguyen Van Hai (Dieu Cay), Ta Phong Tan and Phan Thanh Hai (Anhbasg) in Ho Chi Minh City.

In 2012 alone, the authorities put on trial and convicted at least 40 bloggers, dissidents and activists. Of this number, at least 18 peoplewere charged with article 88.

During the trial in September, family members of Nguyen Van Hai and Ta Phong Tan were detained so they could not approach the court to attend the so-called open trial of these bloggers. Police also confiscated Nguyen Van Hai’s son’s T-shirt that urges for freedom of his father and the other two.

Prior to this appeal trial, police sent summon notice to Nguyen Van Hai’s ex-wife Duong Thi Tan, demanding her to go to police station to be interrogated for “disrupting public order” when she went to attend the 49 days anniversary of Ta Phong Tan’s mother’s death in Bac Lieu on September 18. Ta Phong Tan’s mother Dang Thi Kim Lieng set herself on fire in protest in July 30.

Blogger Nguyen Van Hai (Dieu Cay) and his fellow bloggers founded the Club for Free Journalists in September 2007 to promote freedom of expression and independent journalism. Since its establishment, police have frequently harassed, intimidated and detained members of the club. Not being able to fully silence these bloggers, the authority arrested blogger Nguyen Van Hai in April 2008 and convicted him to 2 years and a half on a trump-up tax evasion charge. In October 2010, the authority refused to release Nguyen Van Hai after he completed his prison term. They continue to detain him with a new charge, this time for “conducting propaganda against the state.” They also arrested blogger Phan Thanh Hai (Anhbasg) 2 days before Nguyen Van Hai’s supposed released date. On September 24, 2012, the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City sentenced Nguyen Van Hai to 12 years in prison, Ta Phong Tan to 10 years and Phan Thanh Hai to 4 years. After completing prison term, Nguyen Van Hai will have to serve another 5 years on probation which restricts his movement within his residential ward. Ta Phong Tan and Phan Thanh Hai will each have to serve an additional 3 years on probation after completing prison sentence.

All three bloggers received the Hellman Hammett awards: Nguyen Van Hai (2009), Ta Phong Tan (2011), and Phan Thanh Hai (2011),

Also in September, politically beleaguered Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung ordered the Ministry of Public Security to target blogs and websites not approved by the authorities, punish those who create them, and prohibit state employees to read and/or disseminate information published on these websites.

Phil Robertson, HRW

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