Cablegate: Democracy Activist Tran Khue Sentenced to Twenty Months

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: HCMC 0873

1. (SBU) The Ho Chi Minh City People's Court convicted detained
democracy activist Tran Khue of violating administrative
detention and abusing democracy and freedom to undermine national
interests on July 9th. Khue was sentenced to 19 months, with
credit for 18 months and nine days time served. The charge of
espionage was dropped, as reported reftel. Khue is scheduled to
be released on July 31.

2. (SBU) According to family members (strictly protect), Khue
chose to defend himself in the four and a half hour trial, rather
than employ two attorneys he had retained for that purpose. With
the sounds of a celebration in the background, one of Khue's
adult children told ConGen that Khue mounted a spirited defense
in the face of heated questioning. He said discussions during
the trial, which lasted from 08:00 to 12:30, were "not pleasant."

3. (SBU) Despite a negative response from the HCMC External
Relations Office (ERO - the southern branch office of the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs), to a formal ConGen request to
attend the trial, ConGenoffs made one last-ditch effort to
persuade court officials to admit them to the early morning
proceedings. While ConGenoffs were ultimately unsuccessful in
gaining entrance, family members later said they were pleased to
see them at the courthouse. Court officials invited up to ten
family members to witness the trial, although only seven actually
chose to attend.

4. (SBU) Khue, an elderly writer and former literature professor,
was arrested on Dec. 29, 2002, just a few days after he met with
fellow democracy activist Pham Que Duong in HCMC. (Duong was
arrested one day earlier at the HCMC train station, and is due to
be tried in Hanoi on July 14.) At the time of his arrest, he was
under an administrative detention order imposed one year earlier
for his role in seeking to register an independent, nationwide
anti-corruption organization.

5. (SBU) Comment: Post was dismayed but not surprised at the
lack of access to this most recent high-profile trial in HCMC.
Unusual, however, was the telephone call from ERO at
approximately 10:30 a.m. informing ConGen that Khue was likely to
receive a relatively light sentence for a lesser offense. That
they provided this information just barely halfway through the
trial speaks volumes for the judicial process, but is another in
a series of recent indications that the GVN is trying to score
points with the international community on its human rights
record. Next week's trial of Khue's colleague, Pham Que Duong,
in Hanoi, will be the next big test.


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