Vietnam upholds 9-year prison sentence for dissident journalist

Vietnamese police officers stand guard outside a courtroom in Hanoi, Vietnam. Picture taken January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Kham/File Photo

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HANOI, Aug 25 (Reuters) – A Vietnamese court on Thursday upheld the nine-year prison sentence of a journalist and prominent dissident convicted of anti-state activities, his lawyers and state media said.

Hanoi’s People’s High Court rejected appeals by Pham Doan Trang, 44, in a tightly controlled trial in the capital.

Trang, who has published widely on human rights and alleged police brutality in Vietnam, was found guilty in December of anti-state propaganda. Read more

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“Trang argued that the initial trial in December did not follow national legal procedures and the international treaty…but the court insisted there was no basis to accept his appeals” , said his lawyer Dang Dinh Manh.

Despite sweeping economic reforms and a growing openness to social change, Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party maintains strict media censorship and tolerates little criticism.

Manh said Trang’s family members and diplomats in Hanoi were not allowed to attend his appeal trial.

The European Union on Thursday called Trang’s charges “vague”, adding that the arrests and convictions of peaceful activists and journalists are in direct contradiction to international human rights law.

“The European Union continues to call on the Vietnamese authorities to release all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained,” said European Commission Foreign Affairs spokesperson Nabila Massrali.

In March, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington announced Trang as the recipient of an International Women of Courage Award at a ceremony attended by First Lady Jill Biden. Vietnam objected to the awarding of the prize. Read more

“The United States is deeply concerned about the confirmed conviction and nine-year prison sentence of renowned Vietnamese author and journalist Pham Doan Trang,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a written statement following the news. decision.

“We take note of reports of Trang’s declining health and urge Vietnam to ensure adequate medical care and allow access to Trang to assess his condition,” Price said.

The court on Tuesday said Trang was not innocent, although she pleaded not guilty, according to state media.

“The jury found that Pham Doan Trang’s activities were dangerous to society,” Vietnam’s official news agency reported.

Earlier this month, the court also upheld long prison sentences for at least three other activists. Read more

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Reporting by Khanh Vu; Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Kim Coghill, Alison Williams and Himani Sarkar

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