Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Tran Quoc Hien sentenced to five years

Another dissident has been has been brought to trial. This time it is Tran Quoc Hien, 42, an attorney and a union rights activist who was sentenced Tuesday to five years in prison after a four hour trial in Ho Chi Minh City. He is the sixth pro-democracy activist to be tried in less than a week. His sentence is three years for "conducting propaganda against the state" plus two years for "disrupting security", to be followed by up to two years house arrest. Official press reports says Hien pleaded guilty, showed remorse, and pledged to leave the dissident organizations to which he belonged. He had been arrested in Jan. 2007.

Among his activities that led to his arrest were affiliation with dissident groups such as Bloc 8406 and the United Workers-Farmers Organization and attempting to organize anti-government demonstrations during President George Bush's visit to Ho Chi City last fall.

Human rights organizations and western governments have roundly denounced these trials, stating the prisoners are guilty of nothing more than exercising their right of free speech. Vietnam officials, on the other hand, claim that the trials have been fair and that free speech exists in the country, but that these individuals abused this right by slandering the state. My view is with the human rights organizations.

Sources: DPA/Bangkok Post May 14; AP May 15; Reporters Without Borders May 15; VNA May 15, 16; AFP May 15, 16.


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