Vietnam Land, Labor Activist Handed Nine-Year Prison Term

A human rights defender jailed in Vietnam for her online activism was sentenced on Tuesday to nine years in prison and five years’ probation on a charge of conducting propaganda against the state, sources said.

Tran Thi Nga, 40, was sentenced by a court in northern Vietnam’s Ha Nam province after being convicted under Article 88 of Vietnam’s penal code, a provision frequently used to silence dissident bloggers and other activists.

Though videos and articles posted online by Nga were described by government prosecutors as anti-state propaganda, “Nga rejected the evidence [presented against her],” Ha Huy Son, one of her defense attorneys,  told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on July 25.

“Her lawyers assert that the evidence gathered against her was not collected according to Vietnamese legal procedures, and so we asked the court to release her,” Son said. “But ultimately the court did not accept our arguments, and gave her that sentence.”

Son said that he expects Nga to appeal her sentence “very soon,” adding that no one from the activist’s family was allowed inside the court on Tuesday.

“Only the police and people summoned by the court were there,” he said.

Activists and other supporters had come to Ha Nam to attend the trial, but were blocked from entering the building, activist La Viet Dung told RFA.

“The police gave the excuse that the courtroom was full, so we asked them to use speakers so we could hear from outside, but they refused,” Dung said.

“At first, they let us stand right in front of the court, but then they said we were disturbing public order and chased us away.”

Police then blocked the dissidents again by driving buses in front of them, “trying to discourage us by running their engines and discharging exhaust, but we just kept sitting there,” Dung said.

“When we returned to that spot in the afternoon, it was barricaded,” he said.

Nga, who has two children, is well known for defending the rights of Vietnamese migrant workers and victims of government land grabs, and in May 2014 suffered serious injury when she was assaulted by a group of men wielding metal pipes.

The seizure of land for development, often without due process or fair compensation for displaced residents, is a major cause of protests in Vietnam and other authoritarian Asian countries, including China and Cambodia.

RFA, 2017-07-25

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