December 21, 2017
By Defend the Defenders, December 21, 2017
On December 21, the People’s Court in Vietnam’s southern province of An Giang convicted five activists of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code, giving them total 19 years in prison, state media reported today.
Particularly, Mr. Nguyen Tan An, 25, was sentenced to five years in prison, Ms. Huynh Thi Kim Quyen, 38, and Mr. Nguyen Ngoc Quy, 25, to four years in jail each, and Mr. Pham Van Trong, 23, and Mr. Nguyen Thanh Binh, 23, to three years in prison each. All of them will have to be in two years of probation after completing the jail sentences.
According to the indictment, the five activists were accused of making and populizing the flags of the Vietnam Republic which ruled the southern country before being overtaken by the communist troops in 1975.
The group was said to produce and disseminate “toxic messages” to defame the ruling communist party and its government on social networks, including Facebook before being arrested in early May this year.
State media said they admitted their wrongdoings so the court gave them the light sentences, adding that people who are charged with “anti-state propaganda” face imprisonment of between seven and 20 years in prison if convicted.
The arrests and conviction of the group are part of Vietnam’s intensified crackdown on local political dissidents, human rights defenders, social activists and online bloggers.
Since the beginning of this year, Vietnam has arrested at least 24 activists and sentenced ten activists to between three and ten years in prison. Prominent human rights defender Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh or Mother Mushroom, land rights activist Tran Thi Nga, blogger Nguyen Van Hoa and anti-corruption activist Phan Kim Khanh are among sentenced.
Many activists have been arrested and charged with serious and controversial articles 88 and 79 (subversion) in the national security provision of the Penal Code. Five activists namely Nguyen Van Dai, Le Thi Thu Ha, Luu Van Vinh, Nguyen Van Duc Do and Ho Hai were arrested in 2015-2016 but still held in pre-trial detention without being tried.
In addition, Vietnam has also expelled two pro-democracy activists Pham Minh Hoang and Dang Xuan Dieu to France.