Vietnam Court Upholds Lengthy Sentence of Poet Dissident Tran Duc Thach, Sending Him Back to Prison

Prisoner of Conscience Tran Duc Thach

Defend the Defenders, March 24, 2021


On Wednesday, the Higher People’s Court in Hanoi rejected the appeal of democracy campaigner and poet dissident Tran Duc Thach, upheld the 12-year imprisonment followed by three years of probation on charge of subversion under Article 109 of the country’s Criminal Code.

The appeal hearing lasted less than two hours in the morning of March 24, said Hanoi-based defense lawyer Ha Huy Son. More than three months earlier, Mr. Thach, 69, was convicted by

the lower court People’s Court of Nghe An province which gave him one of severe sentences imposed on political dissidents in the Southeast Asian nation.

Like in the first-instance hearing, lawyer Son argued that the indictment against Mr. Thach was baseless since the regime’s punishment was aimed to his membership to the unsanctioned group Brotherhood for Democracy (BFD). According to the indictment, the accusation against Mr. Thach was made based on his activities in the BFD while the group’s key figures were arrested in 2015-2017 and sentenced to lengthy imprisonment of between seven and 15 years in prison.

The court also ignored the facts that Mr. Thach’s father was an official of the regime while he himself was an military soldier participating in the Vietnam War in the communist side.

This is the second time the communist government sent Mr. Thach to prison. In 2009, he was arrested together with several political dissidents on charge of “conducting anti-state propaganda” for demanding political pluralism and human rights. He was then sentenced to three years of prison and three years of probation.

In 2014-2017, he took part in a campaign for the establishment of the BFD which was led by prominent lawyer and human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, who was arrested in late 2015 on charge of subversion. Mr. Dai was freed in 2018 but forced to live in exile in Germany upon his release.

Thach is among more than 30 political activists being arrested last year as the communist regime intensified its crackdown on local dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders ahead of the 13th National Congress of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam. The congress ended on February 1 this year, with many conservative figures such as General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, incumbent Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, and Minister of Public Security To Lam being re-elected to the new leadership for the next 5-year term. It seems that the political persecution continues with new arrests of political dissidents and Facebookers on controversial articles of the National Security provisions in the Criminal Code. Since the beginning of this year, at least four Facebookers have been detained and face lengthy imprisonments.

Vietnam is holding around 260 prisoners of conscience, according to Defend the Defenders’ statistics. Hanoi always denies imprisoning prisoners of conscience but only law violators.