Appeal hearing of Journalist Pham Doan Trang scheduled on Aug 25, prison sentence expected to be upheld

Journalist Pham Doan Trang

The appeal hearing of well-known journalist Pham Doan Trang, who has been awarded many international human rights awards, is scheduled for Aug 25. One of her lawyers said that the sentence reduction depends on whether the defendant pleads guilty or not.

The High People’s Court in Hanoi will hold an appeal hearing on August 25 to try well-known human rights activist and independent journalist Pham Doan Trang.

Ms. Trang was sentenced to nine years in prison for “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code during a trial in December 2021.

According to the court’s notice sent to the lawyer, the public trial will be held at the headquarters of the high court in Cau Giay district, Hanoi.

In an interview with Radio Free Asia, lawyer Ngo Anh Tuan, who participated in the defense of Ms. Trang in both the first instance and appeal hearing, said that his client always asserts her innocence and because of her attitude, it is difficult to change the sentence in the upcoming appeal court.

Ms. Trang from the beginning until now has completely pleaded not guilty, we also agree with Ms. Trang. In the defense’s view of the lawyers, Ms. Trang is not guilty, so there is no need to ask for a reduction in the sentence. That also means that the appeal hearing has not changed much, ie the probability of the first-instance judgment being upheld is over 90%. Because in cases like this, as we’ve shown many times, it’s an attitude case, which means that if our clients ask for mercy, it will be likely acceptable. However, they do not apply for mercy and the possibility of upholding the sentence is very high, and Ms. Trang’s case is no exception.”

Bui Thi Thien Can, the 44-year-old activist’s mother, told reporters that she did not know if she would be able to attend the public appeals court like in the first instance. She shared:

As a rule, if it were other countries, they would probably have a bit of respect for international pressure, but the Viet Cong were very stubborn.

As soon as Trang was arrested as well as before the first instance hearing, many foreign embassies called on Vietnam to release Trang immediately and unconditionally, but the regime ignored.”

She added that Trang has not seen her relatives since her arrest more than 22 months ago. Her daughter was discriminated against. The family was not allowed to send ready-made food as in many other cases but was forced to buy it from the canteen of Detention Center No. 1 of the Hanoi Police to supply for her.

According to the indictment, from November 2017 to early December 2018, Ms. Trang had the act of “making, storing and circulating documents and articles with content aimed at destroying the State of Vietnam.”

Specifically, Ms. Trang is accused of possessing documents: “A Brief Report on Vietnam’s marine environmental disaster,” “General assessment of the human rights situation in Vietnam,” and “Report on review of the 2016 law on religion and belief related to the exercise of the right to freedom of religion and belief in Vietnam.”

The Hanoi People’s Procuratorate, the agency that holds the right to prosecute, said the documents contained propaganda content “psychological warfare rhetoric, spreading fabricated news to cause confusion among the people, propagating disinformation about guidelines and policies of the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”

Ms. Trang is also accused of giving interviews to foreign stations such as BBC News in Vietnamese and Radio Free Asia (RFA) with “information content that distorts the State’s policies.”

Ms. Trang, the co-founder of Luat Khoa, an English-language magazine and newspaper The Vietnamese Magazine, is also the author of many political books such as Politics for Ordinary Citizens and Handbook for Prisoners’ Families.

Once working for the state-controlled VietnamNet newswire, she was arrested on October 6, 2020, just hours after the annual Vietnam-US Human Rights Dialogue.

Her arrest is related to her co-authoring the Dong Tam Report, a comprehensive report on land disputes in Dong Tam Commune, Hoai Duc District, Hanoi City, and the attack of about 3,000 riot police entered Hoanh village in the early morning of January 9, 2020, killing spiritual leader Le Dinh Kinh and arresting dozens of people. Just a short time after the English-Vietnamese bilingual report was published, she was arrested.

Years before her arrest, Ms. Trang was detained and beaten by the Vietnamese police many times.

Due to being beaten by security forces during a protest against the Hanoi government’s felling of thousands of old trees in the city center in May 2015, her leg was broken and she had to use crutches to move.

Ms. Can said that during the investigation, her daughter was beaten many times by the investigating officer and also by criminal prisoners. Currently, Ms. Trang suffers from many diseases such as menorrhagia, low blood pressure, and leg pain, but does not receive adequate medical treatment.

For her activities in promoting human rights and freedom of the press, Ms. Trang has been awarded many prestigious international awards, including the International Women of Courage Award from the US Department of State, and the Reporters Award from the US Reporters Organization. Without Borders (RSF) for Influence category, Homo Homini Award from People In Need (Czech Republic), Media Freedom Award 2022 presented by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Canada and the United Kingdom, international human rights award Martin Ennals, and most recently the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) International Press Freedom Award 2022. (Translated)