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Press Release

Free Vietnam Alliance

Using the Internet in Vietnam is considered “espionage”
Authorities sentence Nguyen Khac Toan to 12 years in prison

Press Release
December 20, 2002

In a one day trial on December 20, 2002, the Vietnamese communist authorities sentenced free-lance reporter Nguyen Khac Toan to 12 years in prison for “espionage.” The trial began at 8:00am and concluded at 3:30pm when the judge read out the predetermined sentence.

Besides the defendant’s ailing mother, Nguyen Thi Quyet, who was permitted to attend the trial but unable to do so because of her health, no other family members were allowed to witness the proceedings. As a result, Nguyen Khac Toan’s family had to gather outside the court where they were joined by several of the country’s leading democracy activists including Pham Que Duong, Hoang Minh Chinh, and Hoang Tien.

Authorities let defense lawyer Tran Lam meet with his client twice, the first time only 4 days before the trial on Dec 16, and the final meeting on the night before the proceedings. With the presence of security officials at both meetings, there was no chance for lawyer Tran Lam and defendant Nguyen Khac Toan to speak freely.

Nguyen Khac Toan was punished for participating in the peaceful movement for democracy and social justice in Vietnam. Born 1955 in Hanoi, he served in the North Vietnamese army after completing a university degree in mathematics. Later, he wrote articles detailing injustices in society and his views on democracy and human rights. Most recently, Nguyen Khac Toan reported on the sit-down protests of citizens from rural areas in front of government and party offices in Hanoi. His first hand accounts distributed over the Internet helped publicize rural discontent against official corruption and land confiscation. He was arrested by police at an Internet café in Hanoi on January 8, 2002.

This latest mockery of justice in Vietnam, the four year prison sentence given to Internet activist Le Chi Quang in November, and the detention of two other young Internet activists (Nguyen Vu Binh and Pham Hong Son), are a clear sign that the Vietnamese government does not tolerate the free exchange of ideas.

The Free Vietnam Alliance strongly supports Vietnam’s Voices of Conscience. We call on the international community to pressure the Vietnamese authorities to respect its human rights commitments under international law. Now is the time for the U.S. Congress to pass the Vietnam Human Rights Act and for the countries of Europe to follow through on the EU’s resolution supporting freedom and democracy in Vietnam.

The Free Vietnam Alliance (Lien Minh Viet Nam Tu Do)
Email: freevietnamalliance@fva.org - Web: http://www.fva.org/
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