Cablegate: Reduction of Pham Hong Son's Sentence

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (U) According to a two Western media sources, Appeals
Court officials in Hanoi confirmed that the 13 year sentence
of activist Pham Hong Son (ref a) was reduced to 5 years
during a brief hearing on August 26. (Son will still
apparently be subject to three years' house detention after
completing that prison sentence.) Court officials have
declined to answer Embassy's repeated inquiries. Security
was tight at the early morning hearing on August 26, from
which foreign observers -- including journalists and
diplomats -- had been banned. (The MFA confirmed the ban at
a press conference on August 21.) About nine
representatives from various missions (including ours) were
nonetheless present outside the court building for the
beginning of the hearing. One reporter confirmed that Son's
wife had been able to enter the court building, but we do
not yet know whether she actually attended the hearing. (At
the earlier trial, she was only able to make her own
testimony but not to be present for the entire trial or to
meet her husband.)
2. (U) Ref b provides cleared contingency press guidance,
as follows:
Q. What is the Embassy's reaction to the reduction in Pham
Hong Son's sentence?
A. We welcome the reduction, but he should never have been
jailed in the first place for his actions.
We urge the Vietnamese Government to adhere to international
human rights standards that it has freely assumed through
its ratification of international human rights instruments,
including the International Covenant on Civil and Political
We urge the Vietnamese Government to release Pham Hong Son
immediately along with all citizens unjustly jailed for the
peaceful expression of their opinions.
3. (U) Comment: The reduction in Son's sentence likely
comes with an eye on a slew of upcoming ministerial visits
to the U.S. and Europe, including Deputy Prime Minister Vu
Khoan, the Foreign Minister, the Trade Minister, the
Minister of Planning and Investment, and the Defense
Minister, as well as a possible vote in the U.S. Senate on
the Smith Amendment to the State Authorization Bill. The
GVN likely overestimated the goodwill that will be generated
from this decision, which many international observers will
view as too little, too late.

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