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Two sentenced to six years in jail for allegedly distributing anti-government leaflets; woman writer released

(HRW/IFEX) - The following is an abridged Human Rights Watch press release:

Vietnam: Woman Writer Released, but Crackdown Continues

(New York, February 1, 2008) - The Vietnamese government released the award-winning writer Tran Khai Thanh Thuy from prison yesterday, but continues to hold dozens of other peaceful activists in prison or under house arrest, Human Rights Watch said today.
Thuy, who was arrested on April 21, was released after a sudden and unpublicized trial before the Hanoi People's Court on January 31. She was sentenced to nine months and 10 days, or time served, on charges of "causing public disorder" under article 245 of Vietnam's penal code.

Winner of the 2007 prestigious Hellman/Hammett prize for persecuted writers ( ), Thuy, 47, is among close to 40 peaceful activists - including more than 10 women - who have been imprisoned or placed under house arrest during the last 18 months in Vietnam. They include human rights lawyers, opposition party members, underground publishers, independent church activists, cyber-dissidents, and labor union leaders.

"Like the dozens of other peaceful dissidents who have been jailed, Tran Khai Thanh Thuy should never have been arrested in the first place," said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "The Vietnamese government should stop locking people up simply for expressing their views."

During her more than nine months of detention at Thanh Liet Detention Center (known as B14 Camp) in Hanoi, authorities prohibited Thuy from receiving visits or letters from her family. According to her family, authorities rejected requests that Thuy, who suffers from tuberculosis and diabetes, be transferred to the Dong Da Tuberculosis Center in Hanoi for better medical treatment. Instead, her health worsened and she developed rheumatism after months of sleeping without a blanket on the cement floor of a small cell, when Hanoi's winter temperatures drop below 7 degrees Celsius (45 degrees Fahrenheit).

A well-known author, poet and journalist, Thuy has written numerous novels, satirical essays and political essays criticizing the communist regime. Thuy was one of dozens of activists who emerged during a period of slightly loosened government controls over dissent in 2006 prior to Hanoi's hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November 2006 and its acceptance into the World Trade Organization at the end of 2006.

In September 2006, Thuy joined the editorial staff of To Quoc (Fatherland) Review, a dissident bulletin printed clandestinely in Vietnam and circulated on the internet. In October 2006, she was involved in forming the Independent Workers' Union, a group prohibited by law in Vietnam, where all unions must belong to the party-controlled union confederation. In December 2006, she founded an association for victims of land confiscation in Vietnam (Hoi Dan Oan Viet Nam).

Prior to her arrest, Thuy was frequently detained, interrogated and harassed by authorities. In November 2006, she was dismissed from her job as a journalist. During the APEC meetings that month, she was locked in her house by authorities and remained under effective house arrest afterwards. On March 10, 2007, police searched her home and confiscated her computer, cell phone, and hundreds of complaint letters filed by farmers protesting loss of their land.

After Thuy was arrested at a bus station in Hanoi on April 26, 2007, she was charged initially with conducting anti-government propaganda (article 88) and disturbing social order (article 245), but only the second indictment was maintained at yesterday's trial.

(. . .)

While the Vietnamese government refuses to release information about its prison population, it is estimated that there are hundreds of religious and political prisoners in Vietnam who have been imprisoned for their religious beliefs, calling for democratic reforms, participating in peaceful demonstrations, or trying to flee to Cambodia to seek political asylum.

The arrests and imprisonments continue. On January 29, a court in Ho Chi Minh City sentenced two young men to six years in prison and three years of probation for allegedly distributing leaflets calling for an end to the ruling Communist Party. The two men, Truong Quoc Huy, 28 - previously jailed for participating in an online democracy chat group - and Hang Tan Phat, 24, were charged under article 88 of Vietnam's penal code for conducting anti-government propaganda.

"Hundreds of religious and political prisoners remain behind bars in Vietnam," said Richardson. "Despite its membership in the UN Security Council and its claims to respect human rights, Vietnam continues to criminalize peaceful dissent, as well as unsanctioned religious groups, opposition parties and independent trade unions."

For the complete press release, please visit:

For more of Human Rights Watch's work on Vietnam, please visit:

To view the World Report 2008 country chapter on Vietnam, please visit:

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