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Cablegate: Recent Ngo Statements On Democracy Activist Khue

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HO CHI MINH CITY 000873

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/BCLTV, DRL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV SOCI PREL VM HUMANR
SUBJECT: RECENT NGO STATEMENTS ON DEMOCRACY ACTIVIST KHUE
SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK

1. (SBU) Summary: Post has spoken separately with the wife and
two of the adult children (strictly protect) of detained democracy
activist Tran Khue over the past two weeks, to follow up on a
recent report from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
concerning the status of his case. While their accounts are
somewhat at odds with the CPJ report, they nevertheless confirm
that the family has had recent contact with the authorities. They
have also been granted more liberal visitation privileges. The
family is still awaiting word on a possible trial date. End
summary.

2, (U) On June 10, the CPJ issued a press release noting that Tran
Khue, an elderly writer and former literature professor, had been
formally charged with espionage, after being detained without
charges for almost 18 months. The New York-based NGO quoted
unnamed sources as saying that Khue's family had been "called into
the HCMC People's Court," where an official allegedly read the
charges, which also included violation of an existing house arrest
order. The CPJ accused the GVN of "using the pretext of national
security to imprison a writer who has merely expressed his views."

3. (SBU) According to his wife and two of his adult children in
HCMC, Khue had persuaded prison officials to allow his family to
visit him on April 28, his birthday, at the municipal detention
center at 4 Phan Dang Luu Street, Binh Thanh District. During the
visit, Khue told his family that he thought police had probably
already turned his dossier over to the People's Procuracy, and
advised them to ask for an appointment with officials from that
office for his attorneys. His wife suspects he might have learned
something about the status of his case from prison officials,
leading him to request the special birthday visit. Following up
on that information, the family visited the People's Procuracy in
early May, at which time the officials in charge of Khue's case
told them they were amenable to meeting with his attorneys.

4. (SBU) Unfortunately, according to the family, the two attorneys
-- one of whom is in Hanoi and the other in Haiphong -- were busy
working on the cases of Pham Hong Son and other democracy
activists, and were unable to travel to HCMC in early May. By the
time they arrived in HCMC in late May, officials at the People's
Procuracy told the family the case had already been transferred to
the People's Court. When the family went to the courthouse, they
were told the case had been transferred back to the People's
Procuracy. Returning to the People's Procuracy, they were told
the case had been transferred back to the police investigative
branch. In the end, the attorneys had to return to Hanoi before
the investigation was completed, and were unable to meet with
officials from either HCMC agency. In what Khue's wife believes
was a move to placate the family for this deliberate confusion,
the People's Procuracy then issued a special permit to allow up to
four family members to visit Khue twice per month.

5. (SBU) Contrary to the CPJ report, officials never discussed the
possible legal charges against Khue with the family during any of
these meetings. In fact, the only indication the family has
received thus far of the possible charges is a notation on the
special visitation permit accusing Khue of "abusing democracy to
distribute illegal documents." Neither espionage nor violation of
administrative probation is listed on the permit. Officials did
not provide the family with an actual trial date either, but did
promise to give the family advance notice of any proceedings.
Given the sensitivities of the case during this pre-trial period,
Khue's wife told ConGen she was reluctant to have any family
members meet directly with ConGenoffs, for fear that too much
attention right now might cause adverse consequences for Khue.
She believes her husband would not receive a long sentence, but
had no particular basis for this.

6. (SBU) Note: Khue had already been under house arrest for over
a year when he was detained by HCMC police on Dec. 29, 2002, just
a few days after meeting with fellow democracy activist Pham Que
Duong in HCMC. (Duong had been arrested one day earlier at the
HCMC train station.) The 2001 administrative detention order was
imposed on Khue for his role in seeking to register an
independent, nationwide anti-corruption organization. Even before
2001, however, Khue was well known for his writings on political
topics. Prior to his arrest in late 2002, he was also active in
protesting Vietnam's border demarcation agreement with China.
This is not the first time ConGen has heard inaccurate reports
about this case. In September 2003, the Democracy Club for
Vietnam forwarded to ConGen a notice regarding Khue's death while
in detention. We spoke to one of his adult children at the time,
who assured us he had just visited his father three days earlier
and found him well. End note.

7. (SBU) Comment: Post is not sure what to make of the disconnect
between the information provided by CPJ and the accounts of Khue's
own wife and adult children, but the family does not appear to
have been the source of the CPJ report. Khue's family has always
been a bit reluctant to talk to ConGenoffs about their situation,
preferring to maintain a low profile as Khue's case works its way
through the legal system. We will continue to respect their
wishes and monitor the case from a distance.
YAMAUCHI

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