Quote attributable to Phil Robertson, Deputy Director, Asia Division, Human Rights Watch

VRNs (Sep 27th. 2012) – HRW – “A day after delivering long prison terms to the three leaders of the “Club for Free Journalists”, Vietnam’s abusive ‘Big Brother’ campaign against free speech rights activists just keeps rolling along, slamming more people into prison for actions that should have never been considered crimes.  The Vietnam government’s intolerance for free expression was on trial just as much as Dau Van Duong, Tran Huu Duc, and Chu Manh Son, the three Catholic youths in Vinh (Nghe An province) who were appealing their conviction under article 88 of the criminal code for ‘propaganda against the state.’  The court reduced Chu Manh Son’s sentence by six months, but refused to order any reduction in the sentences of the other two. Their so-called “crime” for which they were arrested and convicted was distributing pamphlets urging people to boycott Vietnam’s sham parliamentary elections – showing just how far the government is from basic principles of democracy like the right to decide whether to participate in an election or boycott it.”

Background information:

Thus the prison terms are as follows:  Dau Van Duong: 3.5 years, followed by 1.5 years on probation with restrictions on movement; Tran Huu Duc: 3 years and 3 months, followed by 1 year on probation with restrictions on movement; Chu Manh Son 2.5 years (reduced from 3 years) followed by 1 year on probation with restrictions on movement.

Background from Human Rights Watch’s previous press release on the case is available here: http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/05/22/vietnam-free-catholic-activists

Authorities arrested Dau Van Duong, 24, a student at the Nghe An Trading and Tourism Vocational College, and his cousin Tran Huu Duc, 24, a student at the Vietnam-German Vocational Technical College of Nghe An, on August 2, 2011. The next day, authorities arrested Chu Manh Son, 23, a student from the Vinh Medical University.

At the first-instance trial on May 24, the People’s Court of Nghe An convicted Dau Van Duong to 42 months, followed by 18 months on probation; Tran Huu Duc to 39 months, followed by 12 months on probation; and Chu Manh Son to 36 months, followed by 12 months on probation.  Outside the court on May 24, family members, friends and supporters of the defendants gathered with banners stating “my child is innocent” “my brother is innocent” “my nephew is innocent,” etc.

Note that a fourth youth, Hoang Phong, 25, a recent graduate from the Vinh University of Technology Education, was arrested on December 29, was among those originally tried.  He was sentenced on May 24 to 24 months on suspended sentence, followed by 12 months on probation, and Hoang Phong decided not to appeal.

In the past, before their arrests, these four activists had participated in volunteer activities, including encouraging women not to have abortions, donating blood, and volunteering to help orphans and victims of natural disasters.

Human Right Watch

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