Vietnam: Dissidents' trial 'a mockery of justice',says Amnesty

Amnesty International has called for the immediate and unconditional release of four Vietnamese prisoners of conscience jailed for their peaceful pro-democracy activism.

In a trial lasting just one day, a court in Ho Chi Minh City earlier today convicted Tran Huynh Duy Thuc(43), a former internet company owner and businessman, IT engineer and blogger Nguyen Tien Trung (26), lawyer Le Cong Dinh (41), and businessman Le Thang Long (42), of “activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” and sentenced them to between five and 16 years in prison.

Amnesty International’s Vietnam researcher Brittis Edman said:

“These people should never have been arrested in the first place, let alone charged and sentenced. The trial allowed no meaningful defence for the accused, demonstrating all too clearly the lack of tolerance for free speech and peaceful dissent, and the court’s lack of independence”

Last month, the prosecution decided to change the original charges from (Article 88), "conducting propaganda" against the state, to the more serious (Article 79), “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration.” No evidence was given to support the indictment, and the judgment was returned after short deliberation and had clearly been prepared in advance of the hearing.

The sentences come against a backdrop of escalating repression of critics of the government. A new wave of arrests began in May 2009, targeting independent lawyers, bloggers and pro-democracy activists critical of government policies. Over 30 prisoners of conscience remain behind bars in Vietnam after unfair trials.

Brittis Edman continued:
“The trial made a complete mockery of justice, disregarding fundamental human rights such as the principle of presumption of innocence and the right to a defence”

Background
The trial shows the urgent need to reform the serious shortcomings of the 1999 Penal Code, the vague provisions of which criminalize peaceful dissent, contrary to Vietnam’s obligations under international law.

Article 79: Carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration:
Those who carry out activities, establish or join organisations with intent to overthrow the people’s administration shall be subject to the following penalties:
1. Organisers, instigators and active participants or those who cause serious consequences shall be sentenced to between 12 and 20 years of imprisonment, life imprisonment or capital punishment;
2. Other accomplices shall be subject to between five and 15 years of imprisonment.

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