Vietnamese dissident appeals against five-year prison sentence

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Vietnamese blogger Le Anh Hung has appealed his five-year prison sentence for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe on the interests of the state”.

Hung, 39, blogged about Vietnamese politics for Voice of America and the news of his appeal was announced by fellow activist and journalist Nguyen Vu Binh, who spoke with Hung’s mother Tran Thi Niem.

“Over a week ago, when I visited Hung’s mother, she told me she hadn’t been able to meet him at Temporary Detention Center No. 1.” which is under the authority of Hanoi police, Binh said.

“They told her that he filed an appeal on September 12 so she couldn’t meet with him for the appeal hearing. “

RFA again contacted Hung’s mother, but she told him she was too ill to give interviews. She previously told RFA that she had spoken to the Hanoi police investigator, who told her Hung was likely to be released next year after spending time in a psychiatric hospital and remanded in custody.

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The Vietnamese security services often refuse to allow dissidents to meet with their relatives after an appeal has been lodged, although Clause 1, Article 22 of the Temporary Detention and Detention Act (2015) states:

“Those held in pre-trial detention can meet their relatives once during temporary detention and once after each extension of that detention. Those held in pre-trial detention can meet with their families once a month. In the event of an increase in the number of meetings or if the persons to be met are not relatives, authorization must be obtained from the body handling the case. The time of each meeting is within an hour.”

However, Article 4, Article 22 of the above law also provides:

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“The head of pre-trial detention does not correspond to the person who is held in pre-trial detention or in custody when: [authorities are] questioning or questioning the person… or when they are involved in other procedural activities.”

A lawyer in Hanoi, who declined to be named for security reasons, said a person who appeals the original ruling is considered by the procedural authorities as a detainee participating in other legal activities.

He also said that in most cases, when preparing court cases in first instance or on appeal, it is very rare that the accused is allowed to see his relatives.

Hung was arrested in early July 2018 on charges of “abusing democratic freedoms to invade or violate the interests of the state, organizations and individuals” under Article 331 of the Criminal Code.

After more than four years in detention and forced treatment in a psychiatric hospital, he was brought to trial on August 30 in a trial without lawyers and family members.

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The family didn’t hear of the trial until Hung’s mother called the investigator involved in his case, who told her the outcome of the trial.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued a statement on September 16 calling on the Vietnamese government “to immediately and unconditionally release blogger Le Anh Hung and stop harassing journalists convicted of fabricated [charges of] conducting anti-state propaganda.

“The outrageous condemnation of Blogger Le Anh Hung shows that Vietnam will do everything in its power to suppress critical coverage of its policies, personalities and rule,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior representative for Southeast Asia.

“Hung and all other journalists wrongly held behind bars in Vietnam should be released.”

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