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Cablegate: Imprisoned Human Rights Lawyers Get One Year Sentence

VZCZCXRO6478
PP RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #1993 3311026
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 271026Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6774
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 3986
RHEHNSC/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS HANOI 001993

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, DRL/AWH AND DRL/IRF

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREL PGOV ASEC VM

SUBJECT: IMPRISONED HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYERS GET ONE YEAR SENTENCE
REDUCTIONS ON APPEAL; SHOULD NOW BE ELIGIBLE FOR AMNESTY in 2008

REFS: A) HANOI 752 B) HANOI 839 C) HANOI 872

1. (SBU) After a six-hour appeal trial in Hanoi, the GVN Supreme
People's Court (SPC) reduced the prison sentences of jailed human
rights lawyers Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan each by one year,
following the initial recommendation by the Prosecutor. The
probation term remained the same. Instead of five years in prison
and four years probation, lawyer Dai will now receive four years in
prison and four years probation; while Le Thi Cong Nhan will receive
three years in prison, instead of four, and three years probation.
Each has been in prison since February 2007. With time served, they
should each become eligible for government amnesty at different
times in 2008, with one-third of the sentence served.

2. (SBU) Poloff attended the one-day appeals trial, which was also
attended by other diplomats and international and domestic
journalists. While the prosecution's case once again centered
around the authoring, downloading and distributing of documents and
the defendants' ties with Bloc 8406 and political activists Nguyen
Van Ly and Hoang Minh Chinh, the trial was unusual in the favorable
conditions the Court granted the joint defense for the two
defendents. An impressive five-person defense team was permitted
multiple rounds of interrogation and cross-examination and wide
latitude in speaking without interruption. One after the other,
each defense attorney attacked the prosecution's case and cited a
litany of State abuses of power and of the legal profession.

3. (SBU) The defense's arguments centered largely on the overall
weakness of the Prosecution's interpretation of Article 88 of the
GVN criminal code, "distributing propaganda to oppose the state."
They asked what "opposing the State" means and for the definition of
"propaganda," noting that virtually anybody having Internet access
or engaging in a discussion could be prosecuted under Article 88.
The defense team further noted that Article 88 conflicts with
Article 69 of the GVN Constitution, which protects freedom of
expression. They argued that opposing the Party and the one-party
rule should not mean one is opposing the State, and that the GVN
Constitution allows for the existence of other political parties.
When the defense attorneys argued that Vietnam is clearly not
complying with international human rights instruments to which it is
signatory, the SPC justices cut the discussion short.

4. (SBU) In final statements before the sentencing, it was suggested
to Dai that he ask for the Court's mercy. He told the court, "I was
not born opposing the State, but I grew up observing problems in
Vietnam and then sought solutions... I have no political ambitions,
and if released, I will try and be more objective in describing the
situation in Vietnam." Nhan, less repentant but less fiery and
defiant than at the first trial, told the court, "I affirm today
that not only am I a member of Nguyen Van Ly's Vietnam Progression
Party but I am a founding member." She added, "Since I was a little
girl, I've been asking myself why Vietnam had only one political
party...I will continue my mission to speak out for freedom of
expression whether I am in prison or out, because that is my
responsibility as a lawyer."

MICHALAK

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