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Cablegate: Gvn Sentences Three More Hcmc Political Activists

VZCZCXRO9567
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHNH
DE RUEHHM #0451/01 1191043
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 281043Z APR 08
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4434
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 3042
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 4658

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HO CHI MINH CITY 000451

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/MLS AND DRL/AWH

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM VM
SUBJECT: GVN SENTENCES THREE MORE HCMC POLITICAL ACTIVISTS

REF: A) HCMC 136 B)HANOI 065 C)07 HCMC 122 AND PREVIOUS

HO CHI MIN 00000451 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary: Three democracy activists from the Bach Dang
Giang (BDG) group have been sentenced to two to five year jail
terms in HCMC. The three were found guilty by the HCMC People's
Court on April 25 of violating Article 88 of the GVN criminal
code by "propagandizing against the state." This trial was the
latest in a series of trials and convictions for pro-democracy
activists detained since late 2006 and 2007 (reftels). End
summary.

2. (SBU) On April 25, the Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) People's Court
sentenced democracy activists Pham Ba Hai, Nguyen Ngoc Quang and
Vu Hoang Hai to five, three and two years of imprisonment with
two years of probation, respectively. The three activists, who
are members of the pro-democracy group Bach Dang Giang (BDG) and
supporters of Bloc 8406, were found guilty of "propagandizing
against the state" in violation of Article 88 of the Penal Code.
Nguyen Ngoc Quang was represented by a lawyer, while Pham Ba
Hai and Vu Hoang Hai defended themselves in court. The three
activists' immediate family members were allowed to attend the
trial; members of the international community were not. ConGen
HCMC's formal Diplomatic Note requesting permission to attend
was denied.

3. (SBU) Family members told ConGenoff Ba Hai and Ngoc Quang
pleaded not guilty, while Hoang Hai - who received the lightest
sentence - chose not to contest "80 percent" of the charges
brought against him. Witnesses said Ngoc Quang spoke
articulately and his lawyer debated so fiercely that witnesses
standing outside in the courtyard could hear him. Others said
defendant Ba Hai complained he was not given adequate time to
orally contest all the charges against him.

The Brief History of the BDG
----------------------------
4. (SBU) Pham Ba Hai, Nguyen Ngoc Quang and Vu Hoang Hai were
arrested in early September 2006 on charges of "propagandizing
against the state," and official news reports of the trial said
the three posted Internet articles that "distorted history,
attacked the administration, tarnished [the reputations] of
Party and State officials and incited people to protest" from
April to August 2006. Prosecutors accused Ba Hai of being the
"reactionary group's leader," claiming he paid US$ 1,000 to Ngoc
Quang and Hoang Hai to work for his organization. Ba Hai
registered the Bach Dang Giang organization in India, where he
also had a business, in late 2005. BDG's former website
characterized the group as a "gathering of progressive-minded
youths to promote human rights and democracy for a prosperous
Vietnam." Lawyer Le Quoc Quan, a Hanoi-based dissident and
associate of Ba Hai and Ngoc Quang, told ConGenoff that the two
posted several articles criticizing the GVN's human rights
record on the Internet and were planning to organize student
demonstrations during POTUS' 2006 visit to Vietnam.

Truong Minh Duc Update
----------------------
5. (SBU) According to family members, Truong Minh Duc, the
Internet author and member of the US-based "For the People
Party" (FPP) and Vietnam's Bloc 8406, did not have a lawyer and
was not allowed to speak in his own defense during his March 28
trial in the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang. Duc was
sentenced on March 28 to six years of imprisonment for violating
Article 258 of the Penal Code, "abusing democratic freedoms to
infringe upon the interests of the State, the legitimate rights
and interests of organizations and/or citizens." In March 2007,
Duc allegedly publicized information about assets owned by PM
Dung and his family and posted several articles on the Internet
alleging corruption and injustice surrounding land deals in Kien
Giang. Duc's May 2007 arrest occurred after he became
personally involved in a land dispute with a woman whose
"adopted son" claims to be cousin of PM Dung's wife. Duc helped
the co-complainant in the dispute file a lawsuit against Dung's
wife's cousin and tried to prevent local authorities from
dismantling a house on the disputed property.

7. (SBU) According to his family, Duc is appealing his sentence
and is now being held at Cau Van prison in Kien Giang.
Meanwhile, Duc's family remains concerned about his medical
condition - they report that Duc broke his arm three months ago
and still suffers chronic pain and partial loss of function
because it was not set properly by prison medics. His family
claims his injury was further exacerbated when guards forcibly
restrained him after he kicked a podium in frustration at his
trial. His family asked for permission to bring Duc to another
physician, and Duc was taken to Kien Giang Provincial Hospital
on April 17 for re-examination. The doctor told him that the
bone is healing but the joint between the hand and arm is not.
The provincial hospital did not have sufficient resources to
help him.

HO CHI MIN 00000451 002.2 OF 002

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

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