June 26, 2021
Vietnam to Try Political Blogger Pham Thanh on “Conducting Anti-state Propaganda” Allegation on July 9, Heavy Sentence Expected
Defend the Defenders, June 26, 2021
After 13 months holding political blogger Pham Chi Thanh (aka Pham Thanh) in pre-trial detention, Vietnam’s authoritarian state has planned to conduct the first-instance hearing on July 9 to try him on charge of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code, with potential imprisonment of between seven and 12 years if is convicted.
The open trial will be carried out by the People’s Court of Hanoi, according to a notice sent to his lawyer Ha Huy Son, who was allowed to meet with his client for the first time on May 28 to prepare for his defense.
It is likely the 69-year-old writer who owns blog Ba Dam Xoe will receive a hard sentence given the fact that in recent months, Vietnam’s communist regime convicted a number of political dissidents, social activists, human rights defenders and Facebookers of the same charge with lengthy imprisonments. So far this year, 13 activists were sentenced to between five years and 15 years in prison on the controversial allegation.
Mr. Thanh is a retired reporter and editor of the state-controlled Voice of Vietnam Radio (VOV). He has written several books critical of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam and its leaders, including late President Ho Chi Minh and incumbent General Secretary cum President Nguyen Phu Trong. His posts on his blog Bà Đầm Xoè are mainly critical of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam and its leader Trong. In 2019, he released a book titled Thế thiên hành đạo hay Đại nghịch bất đạo (Holder of Mandate of Heaven or Great Immoral Traitor) and its main character is the incumbent party chief.
On his blog Bà Đầm Xoè, Thanh also posted his writings on politics and social issues, including China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea) and the weak response of the Vietnamese Communist regime, systemic corruption, widespread environmental pollution, human rights violations, etc.
His arrest on May 21 last year is part of Vietnam’s intensified crackdown on local dissent before and after the 13th National Congress of the ruling party.
So far this year, Vietnam’s communist regime has arrested 12 activists on allegations such as “conducting anti-state propaganda” or “abusing democratic freedom” in the National Security provisions of the Criminal Code. The regime has also sentenced 16 activists to between two years and 15 years in prison.
According to Amnesty International, Vietnam is the largest jailer of prisoners of conscience with 170 activists being jailed while the latest statistics of Defend the Defenders shows that Hanoi is holding at least 2632 prisoners of conscience. Reporters Without Borders regularly ranks Vietnam among the worst five countries on press freedom and the largest number of jailed bloggers. Vietnam’s communist government always denies it has any prisoners of conscience, saying it imprisons only law violators.