December 24, 2016
By Defend the Defenders, December 19, 2016
U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius said that he is deeply concerned by the sentencing of two Vietnamese pro-democracy activists, Tran Anh Kim and Le Thanh Tung, according to a media release of the Embassy dated December 19.
The release was issued three days after a Vietnamese court convicted Mr. Kim and Mr. Tung for activities allegedly aimed at “overthrowing” the state under Article 79 of the 1999 Penal Code. The two pro-democracy fighters were sentenced to 13 and 12 years in prison and to five and four years under house arrest, respectively.
All people should enjoy the rights to freedom of speech and to association, the ambassador said, noting that the recent trend of arrests and convictions of peaceful activists is troubling and threatens to overshadow Vietnam’s progress on human rights.
The lengthy duration of the prison sentences are significant for their severity as well, he added.
Washington calls on Hanoi to release these individuals and all other prisoners of conscience, and to allow all individuals in Vietnam to express their political views without fear of retribution, the media release read.
The Embassy also urged Vietnam’s government to ensure its laws and actions are consistent with the human rights provisions of the country’s 2013 Constitution and with its international obligations and commitments.
The imprisonment of Kim and Tung was met with criticism worldwide. On Friday, a few hours after the trial against Kim and Tung ended, Amnesty International issued a public statement to condemn the detention of human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and the long sentences against Mr. Kim and Mr. Tung, saying they were detained solely for exercising their right of freedom of speech and association. The London-based organization urged Vietnam to unconditionally and immediately release them and other prisoners of conscience.
Mr. Kim and Mr. Tung are among twenty Vietnamese activists being tried and jailed this year, raising the total political prisoners to over 130, according to Human Rights Watch.