Cablegate: Conviction of Tran Dung Tien

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

REF: Hanoi 2847

1. (U) Activist Tran Dung Tien (usually described as a
former bodyguard of Ho Chi Minh) was sentenced after a brief
trial on November 12 to ten months in prison by the Hanoi
People's Court under article of 258 of the Penal Code
("Abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests
of the State"), the press office of the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs confirmed to embassy. Court officials declined to
comment on the case. The trial was closed to the public,
press, and foreign diplomats. Tien's wife and daughter were
allowed to attend, but his brother and sister were barred
from the courthouse. It is unclear whether Tien was
represented by legal counsel (reftel). The sentence will
recognize time already served; Tien should be released
November 22.

2. (U) The atmosphere outside the court was marked by
heavy police presence, with uniformed and plainclothes
police attempting to herd observers as far from the
courthouse as possible. In addition to Tien's family,
several political activists and friends showed up outside
the courthouse, including well-known activists Nguyen Thanh
Giang, and Hoang Minh Chinh. Both activists openly
criticized the trial and the lack of democratic freedoms in
Vietnam to the assembled foreign press, with Chinh - himself
a former revolutionary and ex-general secretary of the
Vietnam Union of Youth Associations - declaiming that, were
Ho Chi Minh alive today, even he could not stand against the
power of the Communist Party. Other activists present
declined to talk with observers. Tien's brother briefly
denounced the trial publicly, but stopped speaking up after
a conversation with what appeared to be a plainclothes
security official.

3. (SBU) Comment: The relative leniency of Tien's sentence
likely is in deference primarily to Tien's age and
revolutionary connections, not the simultaneous presence of
Defense Minister Tra in the U.S. The court apparently
attributed the light sentence to Tien's "confession," but
press sources have claimed that Tien rejected the charges
completely. Upcoming but still apparently not scheduled
trials of better known activists Tran Khue and Pham Que
Duong -- whose December 2002 detentions Tien had originally
denounced -- as well as that of Nguyen Dan Que, will likely
result in much stiffer sentences, which Tien may feel
compelled again to protest, even at the risk of another term
in jail for himself.

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