Six Vietnamese Pro-democracy Activists Convicted, Sentenced to Total 66 Years in Prison and 17 Years under House Arrest

Activists at the trial on April 5, 2018

Defend the Defenders, April 5, 2018

On April 5, the People’s Court of Hanoi found six pro-democracy activists members of the unsanctioned Brotherhood for Democracy guilty of subversion, sentencing them to a total 66 years in prison and 17 years under house arrest afterward.

The court made its decision in late evening of Thursday.

Particularly, human rights attorney Nguyen Van Dai, co-founder of the online pro-democracy group, was sentenced to 15 years in prison and five years under house arrest while Protestant pastor Nguyen Trung Ton and veteran journalist Truong Minh Duc, who is also vice president of the unregistered Viet Labor Movement were given 12 years in prison and three years under house arrest each.

Nguyen Bac Truyen, one of the organization’s co-founders but left it several years ago, was sentenced to 11 years in jail and three years of probation.

Ms. Le Thu Ha was sentenced to nine years in prison and two years under house arrest while Pham Van Troi, also co-founder of the organization and once headed it, was given the lightest sentence with seven years in prison and one year of probation.

During the one-day open trial, only five wives of the male defendants and the mother of Ms. Le Thu Ha were allowed to enter the courtroom in the center of Hanoi while foreign diplomats were placed in a separate room to observe the trial via TV screening.

Security forces in Hanoi placed many activists under de facto house arrest to prevent them from going to the court areas to support the imprisoned activists. They also detained dozens of other activists who tried to march to the court areas, keeping them in different locations until the trial ended. Some activists were reportedly brutally beaten in custody.

Mr. Nguyen Van Dai and Ms. Le Thu Ha were arrested on late 2015 with an initial charge of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.

The four others were arrested on July 30 last year with allegation of “carrying out attempts to overthrow the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the same code. On the same day, Vietnam also changed the charge against Mr. Nguyen Van Dai and Ms. Le Thu Ha to subversion.

Their arrests and convictions are part of the Vietnamese ongoing crackdown on local dissent amid rising social disatisfaction on the government’s bad economic management, systemic corruption and concession of the country’s sovereignty to China.

Since the beginning of 2017, Vietnam has arrested at least 45 activists and convicted at least 25 of them, sentencing them to lengthy sentences of between three and 16 years in prison.

Many foreign government and international human rights organizations have condemned Vietnam’s ongoing persecution against local political dissidents, human rights defenders, social activists and bloggers, calling on the communist government to release all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.

According to the latest statistics of Amnesty International, Vietnam is holding nearly 100 prisoners of conscience.