Cablegate: Activist Nguyen Dan Que Sentenced

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: A) Hanoi 1964; B) HCMC 917

1. (U) On July 29, a HCMC criminal court sentenced prominent
activist Nguyen Dan Que to 30 months imprisonment for "abusing
democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State."
Que was originally charged with the much more serious charge of
"espionage" after calling for political and human rights reform in
Vietnam over the Internet. Que was detained on March 17, 2003.
Counting time served in pre-trial detention, Dr. Que would be
eligible for release in September 2005. Despite official
requests, the GVN denied Consulate officers access to the trial,
which was closed to the public, press, and foreign diplomats.

2. (SBU) Dr. Que was combative throughout the 3-hour trial,
according to Ms. Tam Van, Dr. Que's wife, who was allowed to
attend. He sometimes refused to respond to the judge's questions
and was taken out of court three times to calm down -- the verdict
was announced while he was outside court chambers. Mrs. Que said
Dr. Que's health is "normal," despite ongoing diabetes. She said
that the Que family would move to press the GVN to amnesty Dr.
Que. (Note: Que was amnestied in 1998 after serving eight years
of a twenty-year sentence for "attempting to overthrow the
people's government" after he attempted to organize a group to
push for a multi-party political system in Vietnam.)

3. (SBU) Comment: We had hoped for a better result from the
trial. While the verdict could have been harsher, the sentencing
earlier this month of Pham Que Duong and Tran Khue to little more
than time served led us to believe that a similar punishment might
be in line for Que (reftels). Nonetheless, the drastically
different sentences between Que's 1990 and 2004 convictions
underscores that some progress has been made here. End comment

4. (U) Begin suggested press points on Nguyen Dan Que

Q. What is your reaction to the sentence imposed upon detained
Vietnamese democracy activist Dr. Nguyen Dan Que?

A. The Department condemns the Vietnamese Government's treatment
of Dr. Que for the peaceful expression of his political views.
His arrest, detention and sentencing violates international human
rights standards. The GVN has freely assumed these standards
through its ratification of international human rights
instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and
Political rights.

The Department urges the GVN to immediately release Dr. Que and
all those in prison, detention or house arrest for peacefully
expressing their views.

Q. Did the Consulate General send someone to the trial to observe?

A. The U.S. Consulate General was not given permission to attend;
Consulate representatives were turned away at the courthouse door.
We continue to remind the Vietnamese Government of its
international obligations to fair and open trials and transparency
in the judicial process.

5. (U) End press guidance.

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