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Cablegate: Two Dissidents Sentenced to Six Years in Prison, Possible

VZCZCXRO6822
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHNH
DE RUEHHM #0136/01 0320652
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 010652Z FEB 08
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3672
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 2472
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 3892

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HO CHI MINH CITY 000136

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS AND DRL/AWH

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM VM
SUBJECT: TWO DISSIDENTS SENTENCED TO SIX YEARS IN PRISON, POSSIBLE
TIES TO GOVERNMENT OF FREE VIETNAM

REF: A. 07 HCMC 1220 AND PREVIOUS; B. HANOI 065

HO CHI MIN 00000136 001.2 OF 002


UNCLASSIFIED

SIPDIS
PROG 02/1/2008
CG: KFAIRFAX
POL: KBENNETT
HANOI: BAGGELER, RFALZONE

AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
SECSTATE WASHDC ROUTINE
INFO AMEMBASSY HANOI ROUTINE
ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS AND DRL/AWH

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

SUBJECT: TWO DISSIDENTS SENTENCED TO SIX YEARS IN PRISON,
POSSIBLE TIES TO GOVERNMENT OF FREE VIETNAM

REF: A. 07 HCMC 1220 and previous; B. HANOI 065

Summary
-------
1. (SBU) Political dissidents Truong Quoc Huy and Hang Tan Phat
were both sentenced to six years in prison and three years
probation for "propagandizing against the Government" on January
29, 2008. Huy, a member of Bloc 8406, has been in custody since
his August 2006 arrest during the height of the GVN crackdown on
democracy groups. In addition to being accused of disseminating
pro-democracy propaganda, both Huy and Phat were accused of
receiving funds from Nguyen Huu Chanh's Government of Free
Vietnam (GFVN), an anti-Communist organization based in Orange
County, CA, whose expressed aim is the overthrow of the
Vietnamese Government. Post has no independent confirmation of
the two activists' ties to GFVN, which the GVN considers to be a
terrorist organization, but believes the GVN-perceived links
account for the above-average prison sentences handed down in
their cases. End summary.

2. (SBU) On January 29, The HCMC People's Court sentenced
democracy activists Truong Quoc Huy and Hang Tan Phat to six
years in jail and three years' probation for "propagandizing
against the Government" in violation of Article 88 of Vietnam's
Penal Code. Huy, a member of Bloc 8406, was found guilty of
disseminating leaflets calling for democracy and publicizing
negative information about the GVN's role in land rights
disputes in Ho Chi Minh City, An Giang and Kien Giang provinces.
Official reports claim Huy and Phat were both funded by the
anti-Communist Government of Free Vietnam (GVFN), an Orange
County-based organization whose website states their mission is
to "dismantle the suppressing (sic) system of Communist
dictatorship of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam by a peaceful,
democratic, humanity (sic), practical and persistent approach."
GVN security authorities consider the GFVN, along with the Viet
Tan, to be terrorist organizations and the two groups are
regularly described as such in government news services.

3. (SBU) The official trial report in Cong An (Police) newspaper
said the GFVN gave Phat 600 USD to pass out banknotes with
anti-GVN writing on them and gave Huy 200 USD to disseminate
2,500 anti-government leaflets in April 2005. The report said
Huy and Phat "slandered" the GVN for its democracy, human rights
and religious freedom record and accused them of inciting the
public to overthrow the GVN. Post has no independent
confirmation of Huy and Phat's involvement with the GFVN, but
believes the Vietnamese government's connection of the activists
to the GVFN explains the rather lengthy six year sentences
handed down in their cases. In the past year, other political
activists convicted under Article 88 have received three-to-five
years sentences and several previously convicted activists'
sentences were reduced.

4. (SBU) Mr. Huy's mother attended his trial and said he was
represented by lawyer Tran Vu Hai, who had full access to the
case documents and met with Huy six times before the trial.
Though a Reuters news article claimed Huy and Phat pleaded
guilty, Huy's mother said he pleaded not guilty and spoke in his
own defense, defiantly asking the Court why Viet Tan activists
who also disseminated pro-democracy information (Ref. B) were
released while Huy, who did the same thing, was put in prison.
(Note: Huy was referring to Viet Tan members Leon Trung and
Nguyen Thi Than Van, who were arrested in HCMC on November 17,
2007 for disseminating pro-democracy pamphlets, then released
and deported about one month later. Four other alleged Viet Tan

HO CHI MIN 00000136 002.2 OF 002


activists arrested on the same date remain in custody. End
note)

5. (SBU) Huy's mother said she planned to ask her son to appeal
the sentence, though his lawyer has declined to continue working
on his case. Mr. Huy's legal fees were paid by fellow Bloc 8406
member Dr. Nguyen Chinh Ket, a prominent dissident who fled
abroad in 2007 under an outstanding arrest warrant in Vietnam.

BACKGROUND ON GVFN
------------------
6. (SBU) The alleged ties between the defendants and the
Government of Free Viet Nam (GVFN) almost certainly played a
role in the precipitating the harsh sentences meted out. While
the GVFN publicly claims to aim for political change in Vietnam
via peaceful means, there is evidence members of the GVFN have
plotted and carried out terrorist attacks on Vietnamese
diplomatic missions in England, Thailand, Cambodia and the
Philippines. In October 2001, member Vo Duc Van was arrested at
the Orange County Airport for the attempted bombing of the
Vietnamese embassy in Bangkok, Thailand. In November 2006,
Thuong Nguyen Cuc Foshee, another member of GFVN, was convicted
in Vietnam on terrorism charges for allegedly plotting to take
over a local radio station and broadcast anti-communist
messages. Mrs. Foshee was released and deported a month later.
Nguyen Huu Chanh, the "Prime Minister" of GFVN, is also under
suspicion of being involved in the Bangkok bombing and wanted by
the GVN on charges of arms trafficking and acts of terrorism.
Recent press reports indicate that he is the subject of an FBI
investigation and remains in U.S. custody.

7. (U) This cable was coordinated with Embassy Hanoi.
FAIRFAX

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