Reporters Without Borders condemns the five-year prison sentence passed yesterday by a court in Vinh Thuan (in the southern province of Kien Giang) on freelance journalist Truong Minh Duc on charges of “taking advantage of democratic rights to act against the state's interests” and “receiving money from abroad to support complaints against the state” under article 258 of the criminal code. He has 15 days to appeal.
“Truong Minh Duc's conviction without due process is indicative of the government's relentless persecution of pro-democracy activists,” Reporters Without Borders said. “His trial lasted only two hours and he was not allowed to be defended by a lawyer or even to defend himself. He is in poor health as a result of mistreatment in prison. We call on the government to free him at once.”
Born in 1960, and a member of the banned Bloc 8406 pro-democracy movement and the Vi Dan (Vietnam Party for the People), Duc was arrested on 5 May 2007. He sustained a fracture of the arm in January of this year that was not treated probably and his family says his health has deteriorated a great deal.
Duc has written many articles about corruption and abuse of authority for newspapers in Vietnam and abroad since 1994, writing under pseudonyms such as Hoang-Ha, Hoang-Thanh, Phuong-Nam, Quoc-Thang and Nam-Phuong. He also sent articles on the human rights situation in Vietnam to websites based abroad.
The political police hounds dissidents relentlessly in Vietnam. Eight other journalists and cyber-dissidents are currently in prison.