Long Prison Terms For Vietnamese Christian Rights Lawyers
By BosNewsLife News Center
5/11/07 Vietnam (BosNewsLife) They were convicted Friday, May 11, of “disseminating and libelous information against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 88 of the nation’s Criminal Code.
“These are harshest punishments” for “campaigns for freedom, democracy and human rights
in Vietnam . The sentences are absolutely horrific and unacceptable by any justice system on earth,” said the ‘International Movement for Democracy and Human Rights in Vietnam ‘
in a message to BosNewsLife.
The group, made up of Vietnamese dissidents and Vietnamese exiles, said it has asked political and religious leaders around the world for an “effective intervention” to help release these “two young and intelligent attorneys immediately and unconditionally.”
Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan are among the most prominent lawyers defending religious freedom cases in Vietnam , explained Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a Christian human rights group that closely monitored the case.
Their arrests were the reportedly subject of House Resolution 243 in the United States Congress, which calls for their “immediate and unconditional” release. “However, many commentators believed the sentences were decided before the case went to trial,” CSW added.
Friday’s sentencing came a day after three leading members of the anti-government Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) received prison terms of between three and five years.
Le Nguyen Sang, 48 years old, a medical doctor and leader of the PDP, was sentenced to five years imprisonment, while journalist Huynh Nguyen Dao and lawyer Nguyen Bac Truyen, both 39, were reportedly sentenced to three and four years in prison respectively on charges of conducting propaganda against the state under article 88 of the penal code.
The prosecutor in the Ho Chi Minh City Peoples Court reportedly described the ruling as a warning to other hostile forces. Earlier in March, 60-year-old Catholic priest and activist, Father Nguyen Van Ly was sentenced to eight years in prison for distributing “material harmful to the state.”
CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas told BosNewsLife in a statement that there was an “extraordinary display of defiance by the Vietnamese government in the face of widespread international attention and condemnation.”
Speaking about the lawyers sentenced Friday, May 11, he stressed that “due legal process was not followed in these cases, with the pair consistently denied access to a lawyer and reports of the trial being completely prejudiced.” He described the resulting sentences as “both unjustifiable and disproportionate to the alleged offences.”
The CSW said it “unreservedly condemns the sentencing of these two advocates, who were trying to exert their internationally-protected rights to freedom of expression and association, and calls for their immediate and unconditional release.”
Vietnamese authorities have consistently denied wrongdoing and accused several organizations of spreading “propaganda.” However several human rights groups have expressed concern about hat they see as the Communist government’s worst crackdown on dissidents, including Christians, in years. “CSW further calls upon the international community to convey strong statements of condemnation to the Vietnamese government about this case,” said CSW’s Thomas