Vietnam jails three pro-democracy activists

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Vietnam has handed jail terms of up to five years to three pro-democracy activists who were arrested before a 2006 economic summit, state media reported yesterday.
Pham Ba Hai, 40 — a member of the outlawed Bloc 8406 group that has called for multi-party democracy — was jailed for five years by the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court for “spreading propaganda against the state.”
Nguyen Ngoc Quang, 44, was given three years and Vu Hoang Hai, 43, was sentenced to two years on similar charges on Friday, the state-run Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported.
Hai, a businessman who previously worked in India but was later barred from leaving Vietnam, and Quang, who owned an interior design firm, were first questioned by police in August and then arrested in September 2006.
The VNA report and state-controlled press charged that the three men had posted online documents “that distorted history, attacked administrations and tarnished the party and state officials and incited people to protest.”
The three will be kept under police surveillance for two years after their release, the court ruled.
Bloc 8406 is named after the day, April 8, 2006, when its founding members — including religious leaders, academics and young professional — posted a manifesto online calling for democratisation and civil liberties.
The movement was launched during a five-yearly congress of the ruling Communist Party, and several months ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November 2006, an event that threw a spotlight on economically booming Vietnam.
Human rights groups have since pointed to a spate of political arrests and trials following the APEC meeting of world leaders, charging that the prestige event emboldened Hanoi to crack down on peaceful dissent at home.
In a separate incident Friday on the outskirts of Hanoi, several hundred farmers publicly denounced another man, Le Thanh Tung, for having joined the Bloc 8406 movement, the police newspaper An Ninh Thu Do reported.
Tung was criticised for his activism and for buying funeral wreaths in February for late pro-democracy activist Hoang Minh Chinh on behalf of overseas-based “reactionary organisations” including US-based Viet Tan.

Source: Macau Daily Times


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