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Cablegate: No Surprises: Hcmc Dissident Show Trial Results in Tough

VZCZCXRO0929
OO RUEHDT RUEHPB
DE RUEHHM #0514 1300900
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 100900Z MAY 07
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2608
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI IMMEDIATE 1889
RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 2805

UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 000514

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL SOCI PINR ELAB VM
SUBJECT: NO SURPRISES: HCMC DISSIDENT SHOW TRIAL RESULTS IN TOUGH
CONVICTIONS

REF: HCMC 483 AND PREVIOUS

1. (SBU) A May 10 show trial for three members of the dissident
People's Democratic Party and the United Workers Farmers
Organization of Vietnam resulted in sentences of five, four and
three years for the defendants Le Nguyen Sang, Nguyen Bac
Truyen, and Huynh Nguyen Dao. All three were accused of
violating Article 88 of the Penal Code "Propagandizing Against
the State."

2. (SBU) HCMC authorities did not permit the CG, HCMC PolOff
and the EU representative -- the HCMC German Consul -- to attend
the May 10 trial for the three members of the United Workers
Farmers Organization. Late in the evening the day before the
trial, HCMC External Relations Officials told PolOff that the
MFA had rejected our diplomatic note request to attend the trial
because it "was closed to foreigners." When we told the HCMC
External Relations Office that we would present our credentials
to the court in the morning in any case, we were strongly
discouraged from doing so. While we were waiting on the
courthouse steps after formally being denied admittance to the
trial, AFP and Reuters reporters based in Hanoi came out from
the courtroom annex, having been given permission to view the
trial via closed circuit TV. A number of supporters and friends
of the defendants -- including a Sydney-based member of the
International Bar Association -- also were prevented from
viewing the trial. Security at the court was tight but not
tense.

3. (SBU) The trial lasted approximately four hours. Following
the trial, we spoke with Le Nguyen Thanh, Sang's brother, who
was allowed to sit in the courtroom along with Sang's mother and
sister. He told us that immediate family members of the other
two defendants also were admitted. We also spoke with Truyen's
attorney, Trinh Vinh Phuc (Sang and Dao defended themselves).

4. (SBU) According to Phuc, the prosecutor read out seven
charges against the defendants, which included: participation
in the PDP, "reading and distributing anti-GVN leaflets,"
providing information to U.S.-based members of the PDP about
land disputes in Vietnam, planning demonstrations during APEC,
and "writing a letter with disrespectful content to President
Nguyen Minh Triet." During the trial, the prosecutors read a
pre-written confession, in which Sang, Dao and Truyen admitted
that "it was wrong to join the PDP." According to Truyen's
lawyer, all three admitted that they violated the law, asked for
leniency and promised to end their membership in the PDP. When
asked to explain why they worked against the Party, they
complained about corruption and mismanagement in the regime.
Truyen's attorney sought to rebut the prosecutor's arguments for
about 40 minutes, but, according to Sang's brother, the judge
did not bother to listen.

5. (SBU) Following the trial, the CG spoke with AFP and Reuters
reporters using cleared guidance. The CG noted that the trial
and convictions were "deeply troubling" and that we were aware
of nothing to indicate that these individuals were engaged in
anything but peaceful political expression. The CG highlighted
USG concern with the increase in harassment, detention and
imprisonment of political activists, including Father Nguyen Van
Ly. He noted our intent to seek access to the HCMC trial of
activist Tran Quoc Hien on May 15 and the May 11 trial in Hanoi
of lawyers Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan.

6. (SBU) Comment: The sentences the three activists received
are similar to the prison terms associates of Father Ly received
in Hue in late March. The HCMC verdicts in no way reflect an
effort by the government to temper punishment meted to
dissidents. This is particularly the case considering that in
the Hue trials, the defendants pleaded their innocence and
strongly rebutted the government charges against them. Although
we were denied access to today's trial, we will continue to
press for access to the May 15 trial in HCMC of 8406 Bloc member
and independent union organizer Tran Quoc Hien. Hien, Director
of Saigon Legal Consultancy, is accused of "inciting" land
protestors to demonstrate and of writing and disseminating on
the Internet anti-Party and anti-GVN materials. He has been
charged under Article 88 of the penal code for "anti-GVN
propaganda" and under Article 89 for "disturbing security." End
Comment.

WINNICK

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