Prison Sentence of President of Vietnam Republican Party Nguyen Viet Dung Reduced in Short Appeal Hearing

Mr. Nguyen Viet Dung at the trial on April 12, 2018

Defend the Defenders, August 15, 2018

 

On August 15, the Higher People’s Court in Hanoi, without warning, held the appeal hearing of Nguyen Viet Dung, founder and president of the unsanctioned Vietnam Republican Party, in Nghe An province, his lawyer Nguyen Kha Thanh has announced.

Mr. Dung, who was arrested on September 27 last year, was sentenced to seven years in prison on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code by the People’s Court of Nghe An.

After being convicted by the provincial court, Dung had filled his appeal to the Supreme People’s Court and his family hired lawyer Thanh to provide legal assistance for him in his appeal hearing.

Lawyer Thanh said on his Facebook account that he had submitted his request to meet with his client to prepare for his defense. However, the lawyer has yet to be allowed to go to the Nghi Kim temporary detention facility under the authority of the Nghe An province’s Police Department.

On the afternoon of August 14, Mr. Thanh’s office received a call from the Higher People’s Court which said the appeal hearing of Dung will be carried out on following day.

At the time, Mr. Thanh was about 1,000 km away from Nghe An and able to attend the appeal hearing, he said.

On April 12, Dung’s trial lasted only a few hours. It was limited to local activists and a few relatives of the defendant were allowed to enter the courtroom.

Dung, 32, who served a 12-month imprisonment for his peaceful activities in 2015-2016, was kidnapped by plainclothes agents in his home province of Nghe An on September 27, 2017. Later, he was charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda.” Witnesses reported that he was brutally beaten by kidnappers during the abduction.

His arrest is linked to his assistance given to local fishermen whose lives are seriously affected after the massive death of fish in the central coastal region due to the illegal discharge of toxic industrial waste from the Formosa steel plant in the central province of Ha Tinh.

On March 26, Human Rights Watch issued a statement  calling on Vietnam to drop all charges against Dung and release him immediately. The New York-based organization also condemned Vietnam’s use of controversial articles including Articles 79 and 88 in the national security provisions of the Penal Code to silence local political dissidents, human rights defenders and social activists.

On April 12, Amnesty International issued a press release  regarding the separate trials of Dung and Vu Van Hung, a former prisoner of conscience and member of the unsanctioned Brotherhood for Democracy. James Gomez, Amnesty International’s former Regional Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said that “Nguyen Viet Dung is a brave young activist in a country where human rights are under attack. This man has already served time in prison for his peaceful activism once before. To ensure there is no repeat of this injustice, the authorities of Nghe An province must immediately drop all charges against Dung and release him immediately.”