Vietnamese court upholds Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh prominent blogger’s 10-year jail term – Statement of concern by scholars and professionals

HANOI (Reuters) - A Vietnamese court on Thursday upheld a 10-year jail sentence for a prominent blogger convicted of publishing propaganda against the state, her lawyer said, the latest move in a crackdown on critics of the one-party state.

Despite sweeping economic reform and increasing openness towards social change, including gay, lesbian and transgender rights, Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party retains tight media censorship and does not tolerate criticism.

In recent months, it has targeted critics whose voices have been amplified by social media in a country that ranks among Facebook’s top ten, in terms of users.

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, 37, known as “Me Nam” (Mother Mushroom), who gained prominence for blogging about environment issues and deaths in police custody, was found guilty in June for distributing what police called anti-state reports.

A court in the central city of Nha Trang upheld Quynh’s sentence, one of her lawyers said.

“This sentence is not objective and is unfair,” the lawyer, Ha Huy Son, told Reuters by telephone.

“Quynh said she is innocent and she carried out her right as a citizen.”

Vietnam’s state news agency confirmed the outcome of the appeal. The hearing was public and “in accordance with Vietnamese law”, foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang added.

Quynh’s mother said she was among those outside the court protesting against the verdict when plainclothes policemen approached and beat them.

“The police beat me repeatedly,” Nguyen Tuyet Lan, the mother, told Reuters, adding that police detained three activists.

Reuters was not able to reach police for comment.

In March 2009, Quynh spent nine days in police detention for receiving funds from Viet Tan, a California-based activist group which Vietnam calls a terrorist group, to print T-shirts with slogans against a major bauxite project, police said.

She has also spoken out against a subsidiary of Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics Corp that caused one of Vietnam’s biggest environmental disasters in April.

The European Union, whose representatives were denied access to the appeal hearing, urged that Quynh be “immediately and unconditionally released”, its Vietnam delegation said on Friday, ahead of an annual human rights session in Hanoi.

A U.S. diplomat in Vietnam said she was “deeply troubled” that Quynh’s conviction was upheld.

“The United States calls on Vietnam to release Ms Quynh and all prisoners of conscience immediately, and to allow all individuals in Vietnam to express their views freely and assemble peacefully,” Caryn McClelland, the U.S. chargé d‘affaires, said in a statement.

New York-based Human Rights Watch called the hearing a farce.

“The proceedings were a farce, with the judge simply going through the motions before issuing the harsh verdict predetermined by the ruling communist party, upholding her long prison sentence,” said Phil Robertson, the group’s deputy director for Asia.

Reuters Staff

Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Clarence Fernandez

* NOVEMBER 30, 2017 / 6:53 AM / :

Statement of concern over the case of Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh and Trần Thị Nga by scholars and professionals around the world

Launched October 4 2017

Statement of concern (below) to request the Vietnamese government to release Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh (Me Nam) and Trần Thị Nga on legal and humanitarian grounds.

Mr. Trần Đại Quang, President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Ms. Nguyễn Thị Kim Ngân, Chairman of the National Assembly
Mr. Nguyễn Xuân Phúc, Prime Minister
Mr. Nguyễn Phú Trọng, General Secretary of the Vietnamese Communist Party

Cc: Foreign Embassies in Hanoi

Dear Sirs and Madam:

We are deeply concerned about the charges and sentences against Ms. Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh, also known as blogger Mẹ Nấm, and Ms. Trần Thị Nga.

According to Vietnam’s state media, Ms. Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh, arrested in October 2016, and Ms. Trần Thị Nga, arrested in January 2017, were accused of “posting articles, video clips and documents containing anti-state propaganda on Facebook, YouTube and other social media, giving interviews with foreign media outlets ’distorting’ the situation in Vietnam”.

The charges violate the right to freedom of expression as provided in international human rights law that Vietnam is bound to respect. Nevertheless, Vietnam’s courts sentenced Ms. Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh on 6/29/2017 and Ms. Trần Thị Nga on 7/25/2017 to ten years’ and nine years’ imprisonment, respectively. These are particularly heavy sentences against the two women who are mothers with children under 10 years old, for activities that should not and must not have been criminalized in the first place.

For legal and humanitarian reasons, we strongly request that Ms. Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh and Ms. Trần Thị Nga be immediately and unconditionally released.

While the country is prepared to host APEC 2017, it is important to recognize that APEC goals for “sustainable economic growth and prosperity” are based on a fundamental respect for the inherent dignity and worth of all persons. As friends of Vietnam, we urge the authorities to reconsider their position on all prisoners of conscience in Vietnam and resolve differences through dialogue and constructive engagement. That approach will accelerate Vietnam’s progress and development.

We thank you for your attention to this matter and trust that you will respond in a manner that reflects the civility and dignity of Vietnam.

1 Etienne Balibar, Professor, Department of French & Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, Columbia University, USA

2 Mark Philip Bradley, Bernadotte E. Schmitt Distinguished Service Professor, Department of History, University of Chicago, USA

3 David Brown, Writer; Diplomat (retired) USA

4 Anita Chan, PhD Visiting Research Fellow, Australian National University; Co-editor of The China Journal, Australia

5 Cari Coe, PhD Circulation Librarian, Butte Public, Library, Butte, Montana, USA

6 Đo-Đang Giu , Physicist; former Research Director at the National Center for Scientific
Research and University of Paris-Sud, France

7 Wynn Gadkar-Wilcox, Professor of History and Non-Western Cultures, Western Connecticut State University, USA

8 Christopher Goscha, Associate Professor of History, University of Quebec Montreal, Canada

9 Lelia Green, Professor of Communications, Edith Cowan University, Australia

10 Ho Tài Hue Tâm, Professor Emerita, Harvard University, USA

11 Ben Kerkvliet, Professor Emeritus, Australian National University, Australia

12 Ben Kiernan, A. Whitney Griswold Professor of, History, Professor of International and Area Studies, Yale University, USA

13 John Kleinen, Associate Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology, Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR), The Netherlands

14 Scott Laderman, Professor of History, University of, Minnesota, Duluth, USA

15 Lê Xuân Khoa, Adjunct Professor, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins, University (retired), USA

16 Lê Trung Tinh, Engineer The United Kingdom

17 Jonathan London, PhD University Lecturer of Global Political, Economy - Asia, Leiden Institute of Area Studies, Leiden University, The Netherlands

18 Bruno Machet, PhD Researcher, National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), Pierre and Marie Curie University, Paris, France

19 Pamela McElwee, Associate Professor of Human Ecology, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, USA

20 Shawn McHale, Associate Professor of History, George Washington University, USA

21 Paul Mooney, Freelance Journalist, USA

22 Jason Morris-Jung, PhD Senior Lecturer, Singapore University of Social Science

23 Ngô Lâm, Information Specialist, Leiden University Library, The Netherlands

24 Ngô Vinh Long, Professor of History, University of Maine, USA

25 Nguyễn Đien, Independent Researcher, Australia

26 Nguyễn Ngọc Giao, Journalist; former Lecturer of Mathematics, University of Paris VII, France

27 Nguyễn Đuc Hiep, Atmospheric Scientist, Office of Environment & Heritage, NSW, Australia

28 Nguyễn Tuo H—ng, PhD Editor at The 88 Project, USA

29 Claire Oger, Professor of Information and Communication Sciences, University
of Paris Est-Creteil, France

30 Sophie (Sophia) Quinn-Judge, Associate Professor (retired) USA

31 Pierre Rousset, Writer, France

32 Mark Sidel, Doyle-Bascom Professor of Law and Public Affairs, University of
Wisconsin-Madison, USA

33 Jonathan Sutton, PhD Researcher, University of Otago, New Zealand

34 Philip Taylor, PhD Senior Fellow, Australian National University, Australia

35 Thái Van Cau, Space Systems Specialist, USA

36 William S. Turley, Professor Emeritus, Southern IllinoisUniversity Carbondale, USA

37 R J Del Vecchio, Independent Researcher, USA

38 Vu Quang Viet, Former Chief of National Accounts Statistics at the United Nations, USA

39 Phạm Xuân Yêm, Physicist; former Research Director at the National Center for Scientific Research and University of Paris VI, France

40 Peter Zinoman, Professor of History and Southeast Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley, USA

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