Two Vietnamese songwriters who face up to 20 years in jail for writing songs criticising their government should be released immediately and unconditionally, Amnesty International said today, ahead of their trial tomorrow.
Vo Minh Tri, known as Viet Khang, 34, and Tran Vu Anh Binh, known as Hoang Nhat Thong, 37 have both been detained since late 2011.
Both are accused of conducting anti-state propaganda under Article 88 of Viet Nam’s Criminal Code – an offence that carries a sentence of up to two decades- and their case will be heard tomorrow at Ho Chi Minh City’s People’s Court.
Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Viet Nam Researcher, said:
“This is a ludicrous way to treat people just for writing songs. These men are prisoners of conscience, detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression through their songs and non-violent activities, and should be freed.
“The Vietnamese authorities must abide by their constitutional and international obligations to respect their people’s right to freedom of expression, including through music and other media.”
The songwriters criticised China’s territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea – known in Viet Nam as the East Sea – and the Vietnamese authorities’ response to these claims. They also highlighted issues of social justice and human rights.
Police arrested Vo Minh Tri in mid-September 2011, released him shortly afterwards, but then rearrested him on 23 December. Since then, he has been held in pre-trial detention at No.4 Phan Dang Luu prison in Ho Chi Minh City. Tran Vu Anh Binh was arrested on 19 September 2011 and has reportedly been held since then in the same prison.
The songwriters’ trial comes as the Vietnamese authorities continue their crackdown on freedom of expression. A further example came on 14 October 2012 when police arrested 20-year old Nguyen Phuong Uyen with three other university students in Ho Chi Minh City, accusing them of being involved in distributing leaflets that criticised China and the Vietnamese authorities.
While the other students were released later that day, Nguyen Phuong Uyen remains in detention. The authorities originally denied holding her, but have since informed her family that she, like the two songwriters, is being investigated for anti-state propaganda under Article 88 of Viet Nam’s Criminal Code.
Rupert Abbott concluded:
“There is a very disturbing trend of repression against those who peacefully voice opinions the Vietnamese authorities do not like.
“Rather than trying to silence the young people of Viet Nam, the Vietnamese authorities should allow them to express their opinions and have a say in the development and direction of their country.”