Vietnam: Activists’ upheld convictions are a blow to freedom of expression

Reacting to the news that the Supreme People’s Court of Vietnam has upheld the convictions of four human rights activists and members of the Brotherhood for Democracy (BFD), Minar Pimple, Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Global Operations, said:
“This is a deeply unjust decision that consigns four men, who have doing nothing more than peacefully defend human rights, to years behind bars.
“These activists have been deliberately silenced by Vietnam’s authorities for bravely speaking out in a country where freedom of expression is under attack.
“Vietnam must immediately cease its ongoing crackdown on dissent and stop throwing human rights defenders in jail.  These prisoners, along with others who are unfairly held behind bars, must be released.”

The four are Nguyen Trung Ton, a pastor, sentenced to 12 years imprisonment and three years under house arrest; Truong Minh Duc, a labour activist, sentenced to 12 years imprisonment and three years under house arrest; Nguyen Bac Truyen, an entrepreneur, sentenced to 11 years in prison and three years of probation; and Pham Van Troi, an engineer, sentenced to seven years in prison and a year under house arrest.
They were sentenced on 5 April 2018 under Article 79 of the 1999 Penal Code for “carrying out attempts to overthrow the people’s administration”. Six Vietnamese political activists and human rights defenders were sentenced at the trial, but Nguyen Van Dai, a human rights lawyer sentenced to 15 years imprisonment and five years under house arrest, and his assistant Le Thu Ha, sentenced to nine years imprisonment and three years under house arrest, decided not to appeal due to the lack of trust in the judicial system.
Brotherhood for Democracy is a non-registered organization in Vietnam founded by human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, which aims to advocate for peaceful democratization in Vietnam and calls for the government to respect human rights. In 2017, the organization was targeted in a systematic crackdown by the authorities. Ten of its core members have been arrested and convicted and at least 10 others have fled the country to seek asylum.