July saw another warning shot to those critical of the Vietnamese regime
A mere month has passed since the sentencing of the Vietnamese blogger Me Nam to 10 years in prison, only to hear a new similar verdict: Tran Thi Nga, an activist and a mother-of-two, was convicted under the same pretext – spreading anti-state propaganda – and sentenced to 9 years of imprisonment, followed by 5 years of house arrest.
The Vietnamese authorities did not care for several videos Tran Thi Nga published on her blog mephu.blogspot.com, claiming its contents to be misleading, “defaming the regime and disturbing the Vietnamese people.” Based on the evidence of two computers, two laptops, a video camera, two mobile phones and five US dollars, it was concluded that the house of Tran Thi Nga was somewhat like an “information centre for anti-state groups for video production and the subsequent sharing of these videos through various channels.”
On 21st July, the International Federation for Human Rights published a press release calling Hanoi to immediately set free this activist, who courageously and persistently supported workers' rights and property rights, as well as the ending of repressions and intimidation aimed at silencing critical voices.
“The Vietnamese government is using these long prison sentences to discourage others from even a hint of criticism towards the communist regime," says Sylva Horaková, Deputy Director of the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy within People in Need. "The situation is very worrying. Freedom of speech does not exist here. Revealing the true state of affairs is rewarded by intimidation, family threats, or even imprisonment by the regime."
As with Me Nam, family members nor her lawyer could pay a visit to Nga during her six-month long solitary confinement. Given that she was informed of the date of her court trial only shortly before it took place, she was unable to prepare her defence. Her family was barred from the court proceedings. The sentence of 9 years of imprisonment represents those harsh punishments that are meant to serve as a warning to those who would want to criticise the situation in Vietnam.
Around 50 Vietnamese, mostly from Hanoi and Haiphong, arrived to support Nga to Ha Nam, where the trial took place. The procession they organized arrived in front of the courthouse. A widely shared video shows several men dressed in civilian clothes waiting for them. The men attempted to destroy their banners, which were pronouncing Nga´s innocence and requested her release.
The exact number of Vietnamese prisoners of conscience is unknown. According to Amnesty International, there can be up to 90. The lawyer of Nguyen Van Dai has been held for more than 20 months without trial, for instance. On 30th July, the list has grown by 4 more names – according to the website of the Ministry of Justice, a prosecution has been launched against four former political prisoners for an attempt to overthrow the regime.