Vietnam appeals court upholds 7-year sentence for prominent rights lawyer

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[JURIST] A Vietnamese appeals court on Tuesday upheld the seven-year sentence of prominent rights lawyer and dissident Cu Huy Ha Vu, convicted in April [JURIST report] of carrying out anti-state propaganda. The court dismissed the appeal [AP report] despite Vu’s arguments that his advocating for a multi-party system did not mean he was against the Communist party. Vu said he only advocated for a system of competitive ideas to better suit the needs and desires of the people of Vietnam. But prosecutors argued that he abused the freedom of speech. The decision comes just one day after the appeals court began hearing arguments [JURIST report] in Vu’s appeal. Vu has been in prison since November because of interviews he gave to the international press in which he advocated for elimination of the one-party political system [Bangkok Post report] in Vietnam and championed other democratic reforms. Vu was sentenced to seven years of imprisonment and an additional three years of house arrest after a trial that lasted only one day. Vu, educated in France, is the son of Cu Huy Can, a leader in former Vietnamese president Ho Chi Minh’s government and highly respected poet. In 2009, Vu sued Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung [BBC profile] in connection with a government initiative to develop, in collaboration with China, a bauxite mine.

Vu’s sentence drew the criticism of rights groups around the world. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson said Tuesday [press release] that, “[Vu] was jailed for political reasons in a trial that violated his rights. Vietnamese authorities should at least do the right thing now with a fair and independent appeals hearing. Rather than playing a revolving door game with peaceful government critics, this is an opportunity for the Appeals Court to correct the serious due process violations during Dr. Vu’s trial in April and ensure that his appeal is in full accordance with fair trial standards.” He is among several dissidents in Vietnam who have been convicted for anti-government activity. In January, a Vietnamese court sentenced former communist official Vi Duc Hoi to eight years in prison [JURIST report] for advocating democracy and a multi-party system. In January 2010, a Vietnamese court sentenced [JURIST report] writer and democracy activist Pham Thanh Nghien to four years in prison on charges of spreading anti-state propaganda. That same month, a Vietnamese court convicted four democracy activists [JURIST report] of subversion. Following the one-day trial, human rights lawyer Le Cong Dinh [JURIST news archive] was sentenced to five years in prison. The four defendants were accused of activities aimed at ending communist rule in Vietnam. Dinh admitted to advocating multi-party democracy in Vietnam and joining the banned Democracy Party. Prior to Dinh’s conviction, a Vietnamese court sentenced [JURIST report] pro-democracy dissident Tran Anh Kim in December 2009 to five-and-a-half years in prison for subversion.

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