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Writer sentenced to three and a half years in prison on trumped-up assault charge

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders condemns the three-and-a-half-year sentence which a Hanoi court passed on 5 February 2010 on writer and human rights activist Tran Khai Thanh Thuy on a trumped-up charge of assault. Analysis of some of the prosecution's evidence against Thuy and her husband, Do Ba Tan, who was given a suspended sentence, shows that it was fabricated by the police.

Thuy and her husband assaulted no one. On the contrary, they were the victims of violence on the part of the security forces, which have been making their lives impossible for years.

The court convicted the couple of assaulting two neighbours on the evening of 8 October 2009, the day that Thuy tried to travel to Hai Phong (to the east of Hanoi) to attend the trial of six pro-democracy activists. The police intercepted her while she was en route to Hai Phong and escorted her back to the capital.

In the evening, two individuals who were clearly in cahoots with the police entered the couple's home and hit Thuy with a brick, injuring her. Her husband took her to hospital where they were arrested by the police. The next day, the state media carried reports accusing the couple of attacking two neighbours.

The police file includes a photo that is supposed to show the injuries that one of the neighbours received at the hands of the couple. But it can be established from an IT analysis of the photo that it was taken in February 2005 and not October 2009, as the police claim.

Col. Vu Cong Long and the other officers in charge of the case clearly fabricated the evidence in order to punish a well-known government critic. Instead of trying her under article 88 of the criminal code, which concerns dissident activities, they preferred to accuse her of violating article 104.

"The hidden motive for this grotesque trial and verdict was the desire of the police authorities to silence a critic for a long time, a critic who has never ceased to peacefully defend human rights," Reporters Without Borders said. "The security forces mounted a Machiavellian response to Thuy's courage."

Reporters Without Borders has just sent a letter to the European Union's leaders, including Catherine Ashton and the Spanish presidency, asking them to suspend its human rights dialogue with Vietnam in protest against the recent wave of arrests and trials of pro-democracy activists.

Thuy was transferred on 19 October 2009 to Hoa Lu prison near Hanoi, where the authorities have denied her the medical attention she needs for the diabetes and advanced tuberculosis she suffers from. Reporters Without Borders already condemned the government's "criminal" refusal to release Thuy despite the deterioration in her health in a release in November.

Thuy was already jailed in 2007 for writing articles critical of the government for websites and dissident publications. She was freed in February 2008 but the political police kept her under surveillance and continued to harass her.

Another woman writer, Pham Thanh Nghien, received a four-year jail sentence a few weeks ago in Hai Phong on a charge of "propaganda" against the regime under article 88 of the criminal code.
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