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Vietnam 5 March 2004

French Co-operation Minister presses case of jailed cyberdissidents

The international press freedom organisation had written to the Minister Delegate for Co-operation and Francophony on 17 February asking him to intervene on behalf of Phan Hong Son and Pham que Duong.

The minister made a ten-minute speech to some 20 Vietnamese officials, including the foreign minister, asking in particular for the two to be released.

Reporters Without Borders welcomed the minister’s efforts in support of the cyberdissidents.

French minister urged to raise jailed cyber-dissident’s case during Vietnam visit

Vietnamese version (.pdf) bellow.

Reporters Without Borders today called on French international aid minister Pierre-André Wiltzer to raise the case of imprisoned cyber-dissident Pham Que Duong during his visit to Vietnam at the end of February.

A former colonel and army historian, Duong is expected to be tried on a charge of spying during the next few weeks and faces a sentence of life imprisonment.

The organisation said Duong and his lawyers had been given no opportunity to prepare the defence properly and it therefore feared that the trial would be a "complete travesty," as is usually the case with political dissidents in Vietnam.

Noting that Vietnamese justice minister Uong Chu Luu was in France from 8 to 15 February to discuss judicial cooperation with his French counterpart, Reporters Without Borders accused the French authorities, during such bilateral talks, of turning a blind eye to the parody that passes for justice in Vietnam.

Duong was not given a copy of the charges against him until 3 February. His lawyers and family have been able to read the charge sheet, but they have not been allowed to make a copy or take notes. Duong is currently undergoing tiring interrogation sessions and is liable to be exhausted and unable to defend himself properly when the trial takes place.

He is charged with espionage under article 80 of the criminal code, which is punishable by 12 years to life imprisonment. Specifically, he is accused of having links to reactionary organisations abroad, using the Internet to receive and distribute documents hostile to the communist regime, and of being the correspondent of a Canadian magazine and, by that very fact, of working for the CIA.

He was arrested on 28 December 2002 after a meeting in Saigon with fellow cyber-dissident Tran Khue, who has also since been detained. A former colonel in the liberation army, he and Khue created a group called the "Association of Vietnamese to help the Party and the Government fight Corruption." In March 2002, he registered himself as a Hanoi district candidate in legislative elections.

PDF - 68.5 kb

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