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Cablegate: Prominent Dissident Writer Tran Khai Thanh Thuy Convicted Of

VZCZCXRO9539
OO RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #0164 0400945
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O R 090943Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0849
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 0454

UNCLAS HANOI 000164

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL VM
SUBJECT: Prominent Dissident Writer Tran Khai Thanh Thuy Convicted of
"Assault"

REF: KAMIAN-FORINO 02/05/10 E-MAIL; 09 HANOI 1084; 09 HANOI 526

1. (SBU) Summary: Prominent political dissident
and writer Tran Khai Thanh Thuy was sentenced to 42 months in jail
on February 5 for assault. Thuy's husband received a two-year
suspended sentence. Thuy argued she was being persecuted for her
outspoken views and for attempting to attend dissident trials in
October. An Embassy officer, other members of the diplomatic corps
and foreign press observed the trial via close-circuit television
in a room adjacent to the courtroom. Thuy suffers from diabetes
and tuberculosis, and her family is concerned about the effect of
prison on her health. Thuy is the 17th dissident convicted since
October 2009 and the first one convicted for assault. Post drew
upon cleared press guidance from the Department to respond to
journalists' requests for Embassy comment to express our concern
over the convictions and request that Thuy and her husband be
released. End Summary.

2. (U) Prominent political dissident and writer Tran Khai Thanh
Thuy was sentenced to 42 months in jail on February 5 following a
one-day trial in Hanoi. Her husband received a two-year suspended
sentence followed by 47 months probation, a lighter sentence due to
his standing in the community as a teacher and his lack of a prior
criminal record. Thuy and her husband were fined $933 dollars to
compensate for the medical bills of the two men who were allegedly
attacked. Thuy, a 2007 recipient of Human Rights Watch's
Hellman/Hammett Award, was arrested in October 2009 after an
altercation involving Thuy and her husband and two men that most
political observers believe was arranged as a pretext to arrest
Thuy (ref. B).

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3. (U) The prosecutor opened the trial by outlining the charges
against Thuy - namely, she threw bricks at men and beat them with a
stick. The helmet, bricks and stick were presented as evidence and
referred to throughout the trial, along with photos and medical
accounts of both parties and their injuries. Thuy, who spoke up
often during the trial, argued she was being persecuted for her
political views and her attempt to attend the trials of fellow
democracy activists in Hai Phong in early October 2009 (ref. B).
Thuy contradicted the prosecution's version of the incident that
prompted the assault charges, arguing that she had acted to defend
her husband who was under attack from two unidentified men. Thuy
said that she threw a brick to scare the attackers away, but it did
not hit anyone and only waved the stick in the air to threaten her
husband's attackers. Thuy was the one who was hit on the head with
a brick, she maintained.

4. (SBU) After hours of testimony by victims, defendants,
witnesses and lawyers, including a statement by Thuy's
thirteen-year-old daughter and an hour-and-a-half closing argument
by Thuy's defense attorney, the court deliberated for only 30
minutes before issuing its verdict. Thuy protested loudly and was
dragged from the court as the final verdict was read. At this
point, the audio feed from the courtroom to the room where poloff,
other members of the diplomatic corps and foreign press were
observing the trial was cut. The judge struggled to maintain order
throughout the trial, with individuals in the galley speaking
loudly and calling on the defense attorney to end his closing
arguments so everyone could go home on time. The defendants,
witnesses and victims were only present during the reading of the
charges, their individual testimony and the closing arguments.
Security inside and around the court was tight.

5. (SBU) Thuy's trial received considerable attention from the
international press but not (unsurprisingly) from the local press.
AP and AFP attended the trial, and RFA, AFP and Reuters contacted
the Embassy for an official comment after the trial. The Embassy,
drawing on press guidance cleared by the Department, expressed our
concern over the convictions, reiterated that no individual should
be beaten, arrested or convicted for exercising the right to free
speech, and urged the GVN to release Thuy and her husband.
Michalak

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