May 6, 2008
Communist authorities in Vietnam will bring to trial American citizen Nguyen Quoc Quan, Thai resident Somsak Khunmi and Vietnamese citizen Nguyen The Vu on May 13, 2008.
Nearly six months ago on November 17, 2007, security police in Saigon arrested members and supporters of Viet Tan as they were preparing to distribute leaflets promoting democracy through non-violent means. On November 19, Viet Tan issued a press release on the arrest of three members—American citizens Nguyen Quoc Quan and Leon Truong and French citizen Nguyen Thi Thanh Van—and of two supporters—Thai resident Somsak Khunmi and Vietnamese citizen Nguyen The Vu. On November 20, security police arrested a third supporter of Viet Tan, Vietnamese citizen Nguyen Viet Trung.
A full five days after Viet Tan’s statement, communist authorities publicly acknowledged the arrests. At the same time, security police pretended to find a gun in the checked baggage of two Vietnamese American tourists—Le Van Phan and Nguyen Thi Thinh—at the airport in Saigon and announced that this couple was allegedly connected with Viet Tan. In the following days and weeks, official state media accused the Viet Tan democracy activists of being “terrorists.”
The arrests by Vietnamese authorities of individuals engaging in peaceful political expression sparked strong protests from governments in the United States, France, Australia, Norway and Switzerland along with many international human rights groups including Human Rights Watch, Reporters Sans Frontieres, Committee to Protect Journalists and Rafto Foundation.
Due to international pressure, the Hanoi government was compelled to release Leon Truong on December 11 and journalist Nguyen Thi Thanh Van (whose broadcast name is Thanh Thao) on the following day. The couple who were framed with the gun and had no relation to Viet Tan were quietly released on December 11. Over four months after the arrests, authorities also released Nguyen Viet Trung on April 4, 2008. After nearly six months of detention, restrictions against visits by family members and their respective consulates, communist authorities will charge the three remaining Viet Tan democracy activists with “terrorism” in a closed-door trial on May 13. We affirm that:
• Viet Tan is committed to achieving democratic change through peaceful, non-violent means. The activities of Viet Tan’s members and supporters are consistent with this guiding mission. We reject all the fabrications and charges by the Hanoi regime.
• During their detention and heavy-handed interrogation by security police any so-called confessions by the defendants have no credibility.
• The legal system in Vietnam is entirely under the control of the Vietnamese Communist Party and all decisions by the court are pre-determined according to political considerations. Therefore, we reject the legitimacy of the trial on May 13 against the Viet Tan democracy activists.
• Viet Tan will continue to rally public opinion from inside the country and abroad to demand the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners held by the Hanoi regime.
Duy Hoang : +1 (202) 470-1678
Chi Dang : +1 (408) 228-4892