Cablegate: Conviction of Nguyen Vu Binh

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. (SBU) Activist Nguyen Vu Binh, a former journalist who
had pushed for the establishment of a new political party
and has criticized Vietnam's border agreement with China,
was sentenced after a brief trial on December 31 to seven
years in prison and two years administrative detention by
the Hanoi People's Court under article of 80 of the Penal
Code ("Spying"). (Note: Embassy information comes from
sources within Binh's family. AFP separately reported the
sentence to include three years administrative detention.
End Note) Binh pleaded not guilty to the charges. The
trial was closed to the public, press, and foreign
diplomats. Binh's wife was allowed to attend, but other
family members were barred from the courthouse. Binh was
represented by a lawyer of his choosing. As in previous
trials, there was heavy police presence, with uniformed and
plainclothes police attempting to herd observers as far from
the courthouse as possible. Binh's family had indicated
that he intends to appeal the conviction.

2. (SBU) Embassy had formally requested permission from the
court to attend the trial, and Charge also weighed in with
the MFA to obtain access. We were not successful, but
Poloff and FSN were present at the court building and able
to speak with relatives and other activists.

3. (SBU) Comment: In the context of the Vietnamese legal
system, a seven-year sentence may be seen as lenient; the
penal code prescribes a minimum of twelve. Upon appeal, the
sentence may be lessened as with Pham Hong Son. The
sentence may also set a precedent for the trial of Tran
Khue, detained for similar reasons and with his trial
expected soon. End Comment

4. (U) Embassy Public affairs section has responded to press
inquiries with the following language, drawn from cleared
language from earlier trials:
No individual should be imprisoned solely for the peaceful
expression of one's views. The sentencing of Nguyen Vu Binh
clearly violates international standards for the protection
of human rights, including freedom of expression and freedom
of information.
The U.S. Embassy sent an officer to the court, but he was
unable to gain access to the trial, despite repeated oral
and written requests to Vietnamese government officials.

The United States reminds the Government of Vietnam of its
obligations to fully respect international standards for
human rights to which it has freely adhered, including the
International Covenant On Civil And Political Rights. It
also calls upon the Vietnamese government to respect an
individual's rights to fair and open trials, transparency in
the judicial process, and access to qualified legal counsel.


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