Vietnam releases rights activist
NEW YORK - Vietnam has released imprisoned dissident writer Tran Khai Thanh Thuy, but continues to hold other dissidents under house arrest, Human Rights Watch said.
Thuy was arrested April 21, 2007, on charges of "causing public disorder." She was released Thursday following an unpublicized trial in Hanoi, at which she was sentenced to nine months and 10 days, or time served, the rights organization said in a release.
Thuy, 47, was the 2007 winner of the Hellman/Hammett prize for persecuted writers. She was one of an estimated 40 activists who have been imprisoned or held under house arrest during the past 18 months in Vietnam, Human Rights Watch said.
Those being held include human rights lawyers, opposition party members, underground publishers, religious activists, Internet dissidents and labor union leaders.
"Like the dozens of other peaceful dissidents who have been jailed, Tran Khai Thanh Thuy should never have been arrested in the first place," said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "The Vietnamese government should stop locking people up simply for expressing their views."
United Press International - January 31, 2008.
Vietnam sentences dissident writer
HANOI — A dissident Vietnamese writer who received an international human rights award for courage was sentenced Thursday to nine months in prison for disturbing the public order, a court official said.
Tran Khai Thanh Thuy, 47, a novelist and journalist, was convicted of "causing public disorder" and freed because of her previously served jail time, the court official said, declining to provide details.
Foreign reporters were denied access to the one-day trial at the Hanoi People's Court.
Thuy was honored last year by New York-based Human Rights Watch, which gave her one of its annual Hellman/Hammett awards, granted to dissident writers for showing "courage in the face of political persecution."
Authorities previously said Thuy was a member of the 8406 bloc, a pro-democracy group that circulated human rights petitions in Vietnam in 2006. They also accused her of organizing an independent trade union and supporting a dissident human rights commission.
She was originally charged with violating Article 88 of Vietnam's criminal code, which broadly prohibits distributing information harmful to the state.
It was unclear why the court changed the charge. The court official, who declined to give his name, would not elaborate.
Human Rights Watch said Thuy has written numerous novels and political essays and was an editor of a dissident bulletin, Fatherland, circulated on the Internet.
She was arrested in April 2007 and had been held in a Hanoi jail since then.
On Tuesday, a court in southern Ho Chi Minh City sentenced two dissidents, Truong Quoc Huy and Hang Tan Phat, to six years in prison for allegedly circulating pamphlets in 2005 calling for the ruling Communist Party to be overthrown.
Vietnam's government, which does not tolerate challenges to its one-party rule, has been cracking down on dissidents.
The Associated Press - January 31, 2008.
"Rights watchdog again produces wrong allegations"
HA NOI – The Vietnamese Foreign Ministry’s spokesman on February 1 rejected erroneous remarks contained in an annual report released by Human Rights Watch on January 31.
“It is regrettable that Human Rights Watch has once again delivered wrong information that failed to reflect the real situation in Viet Nam,” spokesman Le Dung said when asked about the New York-based rights watchdog’s 2007 report.
He reiterated that the Vietnamese State always respects the rights to freedom and democracy of all citizens, including the right to freedom of speech.
“Like in other countries around the world, the State of Viet Nam does not accept the abuse of the rights to freedom and democracy to commit acts that violate the law,” spokesman Le Dung stressed.
He affirmed that in Viet Nam , there is neither political crackdown nor any arrest on the grounds of political viewpoints or religions. Only those who break the law are dealt with in line with regulations of Vietnamese laws, Dung said.
He went on to say that several people in Viet Nam had in the past time been charged for violating the Vietnamese State’s laws and policies, undermining security and social order and stability, and destroying national unity, not for dissenting from the official view.
“The strict punishment given to law violators is normal and in compliance with stipulations of Vietnamese laws,” the spokesman concluded.
Vietnam News Agency - January 31, 2008.