Vietnam court upholds 9-year jail sentence for democracy activist

Prominent human rights campaigner and writer Pham Doan Trang was sentenced to nine years for ‘propaganda against the state’.

Vietnam samizdat
Pham Doan Trang is a journalist-turned-activist, who has published material on human rights and alleged police brutality in Vietnam [File: Adam Bemma/Al Jazeera]

A Vietnamese court has upheld a nine-year prison term for prominent human rights campaigner and writer Pham Doan Trang, who was convicted of anti-state activities, her lawyers and state media said.

On Thursday, the Hanoi People’s High Court rejected Trang’s appeal of a sentence handed down in December at a tightly controlled trial in the capital.

Trang, 44, a journalist-turned-activist who widely published material on human rights and alleged police brutality in Vietnam, was convicted of “conducting propaganda against the state”.

“Trang argued that the initial trial in December didn’t follow domestic legal procedures and international [treaties] … but the court insisted that there was no foundation to accept her appeals,” her lawyer Dang Dinh Manh said.

Manh said Trang’s family members and diplomats in Hanoi were barred from attending her appeal hearing.

In March, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Trang as the winner of an International Women of Courage prize at a ceremony attended by First Lady Jill Biden. Vietnam objected to the granting of the award.

The court on Thursday said Trang was “dangerous”, according to state media.

“The jury held that Pham Doan Trang’s activities were dangerous for the society,” the official Vietnam News Agency reported.

Earlier this month, the court also upheld lengthy prison terms against at least three other activists.

Trang has written on a range of topics including LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, the environment, and democratic activism. Most of the work was published clandestinely, including the best-selling Politics for the Common People, which is akin to a guide for fledgeling activists.

She is also known for her activism, taking part in rallies in support of imprisoned dissidents and the environment.

Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party retains tight media censorship and tolerates little criticism, and arrests of activists are common.

In January 2021, three journalists were found guilty of spreading propaganda against the state, which resulted in jail sentences of between 11 and 15 years.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies