#Vietnam Cracking Down; Sentenced Human Rights Activist #PhamDoanTrang to Nine Years in Prison

Pham Doan Trang was sentenced to nine years in Vietnamese prison after being convicted of “anti-state propaganda” under article 117 of Vietnam’s penal code.

By John Clise

The United States and others are strongly condemning the nine-year prisons sentence handed out today to independent journalist and woman human rights defender and Pham Doan Trang, age 43, by the Vietnamese government in a trial that took only a few hours ending in a conviction of “anti-state propaganda” under article 117 of Vietnam’s penal code.

Vietnam is continuing its campaign against independent journalists and bloggers as a way to crush opposition the communist government’s policies.

Ned Price, U.S. State Department Spokesperson released the following:

“The United States condemns the conviction and sentencing to 9 years imprisonment of noted Vietnamese author and journalist Pham Doan Trang, who did nothing more than peacefully express her opinions.  We note as well the recent opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which found Trang’s detention to be arbitrary and in contravention of Vietnam’s international human rights commitments and obligations.  The United States calls on the Vietnamese government to release Trang, who has been recognized internationally for her work to advance human rights and good governance in Vietnam, and to allow all individuals in Vietnam to express their views freely and without fear of retaliation.  We also urge the government to ensure its laws and actions are consistent with the human rights provisions of Vietnam’s Constitution and Vietnam’s international obligations and commitments.”

In response to news that the Hanoi People’s Court sentenced Vietnamese author, blogger, and activist Pham Doan Trang to nine years in prison on baseless charges of anti-state propaganda for her writing, PEN America released the following statement:

“The conviction of Pham Doan Trang is an appalling and fundamentally unjust result, following from an unfair trial on politically-motivated charges that treat words as crimes,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, director of Free Expression at Risk Programs at PEN America. “This sentence represents a heinous violation of Trang’s fundamental rights and of Vietnamese authorities’ commitments under international law. The result of this sham trial clearly illustrates how Vietnamese officials view public debate and political commentary as a threat to their power. Trang has been a fearless voice for human rights, and with this sentencing, the court has made it clear that they fear the power of her writing. We call upon the Vietnamese government to reverse this shocking injustice by immediately vacating Pham Doan Trang’s sentence.”

A prolific author and a leading voice in Vietnamese civil society, Pham Doan Trang has been recognized internationally for her writings on politics and human rights, making her a target of the state for many years. She was arrested on October 6, 2020, just hours after the 2020 United States-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue ended, on charges that criminalize “making, storing, distributing, or disseminating information, documents, and items against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” Trang was held incommunicado from the date of her arrest until October 19, 2021, when she was finally allowed to meet with one of her lawyers. During her detention, Trang was also denied access to adequate medical care, raising several serious health concerns. 

According to PEN America’s 2020 Freedom to Write Index, Vietnam jailed the seventh-highest number of writers and intellectuals globally during 2020.”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has also condemned the nine-year jail sentence that Pham Doan Trang, noting the sentence “gags a leading fighter for press freedom in Vietnam and the world”

Vietnam is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

Trang was arrested in Ho Chi Minh City on Oct. 7, 2020 and charged under Article 88 of the 1999 Criminal Code which criminalizes “making, storing, distributing or disseminating information, documents and items against the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam” and held for 434 days in detention without being charged.

She received the 2017 Homo Homini Award from People In Need, who called her “one of the leading figures of the contemporary Vietnamese dissent”.

She was also detained for nine days 2009 by police for “national security” reasons. 

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