Cablegate: Nguyen Vu Binh's Sentence Upheld On Appeal

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

041018Z May 04




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: 03 Hanoi 3373

1. (U) The Appeals Court of Hanoi upheld activist Nguyen
Vu Binh's sentence of seven years imprisonment and three
years administrative detention at home during a May 5
hearing, according to press reports and family friends.
Court and Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials refused to
confirm the verdict to Embassy.

2. (U) Binh, a former journalist for Tap Chi Cong San
(Communist Review), was detained in September 2002, and
convicted on January 31, 2003, under article 80 (espionage)
of Vietnam's Penal Code (reftel). The appeal trial was
closed to the public, press, and foreign diplomats. Binh's
wife and father were allowed to attend, but his brother, two
sisters, and mother-in-law were barred from the courthouse.
Binh was represented by two lawyers of his choosing,
however. Binh's family members reported to journalists that
he had pleaded not guilty during the appeal, and plans a
hunger strike to protest the result.

3. (SBU) Outside the court gates, uniformed and
plainclothes police attempted to herd family members and
observers away from the courthouse. In addition to Binh's
family, several political activists, including Hoang Minh
Chinh, an ex-general secretary of the Vietnam Union of Youth
Associations, stood outside the courthouse talking to
journalists and demonstrating their support to the family.
The atmosphere became difficult when a number of
unidentified women came to the area and started manhandling
and screaming at family members. When police took no action
to protect the peaceful observers, journalists and diplomats
stood between the family members and their tormenters.
Eventually, a police officer commanded police to restrain
the aggressive individuals. Binh's family later told
journalists that, after international observers left the
scene, the women returned and assaulted Binh's sister,
leaving her with scratches and bruises, while police did
nothing to help.

4. (SBU) Comment: The refusal to reduce the sentence is
disappointing, and somewhat of a surprise in light of what
we had heard had been many statements of support made behind
the scenes by long-standing CPV members and friends. After
the reduction of the sentence of Pham Hong Son in August and
those the nephews and niece of Father Nguyen Van Ly in
November, as well as the relatively lenient sentence given
to Tran Dung Tien in November, it looked as if the GVN might
be beginning to understand the importance to its
international image of making gestures of judicial leniency
and forgiveness. Likely, Binh's refusal to admit guilt or
express remorse was considered by the court (and CPV) as yet
another hostile political gesture, hence obviating hopes for
a reduction. The apparently new tactic of female storm
troopers attacking family members and observers outside the
court is bizarre and so far inexplicable.

© Scoop Media

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