HANOI, Sept 12 — A Vietnamese dissident was jailed today for 12 years on charges of trying to overthrow the state, days after the communist country refused entry to rights campaigners for a major business forum in Hanoi.
Vietnam has a dismal rights record and has come under fire for a brutal crackdown against critics in the past two years that has seen scores jailed.
Earlier this week it barred two rights campaigners from entering the country for the World Economic Forum attended by regional leaders — many of whom face criticism for their own rights record at home.
Nguyen Trung Truc, a member of the Brotherhood for Democracy group, was sentenced to 12 years in jail for attempting to overthrow the state, his lawyer said after his half-day trial in central Quang Binh province.
The 44-year-old denied the charges, while his lawyer said Truc was not given a fair chance in court.
“I didn’t intend to overthrow anyone. I only supported and praised democracy, human rights and environmental protection in Vietnam,” Truc said in court, according to his attorney Nguyen Van Mieng.
Truc is the latest Brotherhood for Democracy member jailed in Vietnam, where political parties, public protests and independent media are all banned.
In April, six members of the the group, which has chapters across the country, were jailed on anti-state charges, including co-founder Nguyen Van Dai who was later quietly released and exiled to Germany.
Today’s trial came as regional leaders, including Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, Cambodian strongman Hun Sen and Singaporean leader Lee Hsien Loong — who have come under fire for their grim rights record — gathered in Hanoi for a WEF summit with business bigwigs that closes tomorrow.
Representatives from Amnesty International and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) were set to attend the meeting but were denied entry by Vietnam, which does not allow international rights groups to have offices in the country.
At least 97 activists are behind bars in Vietnam as of April this year, with some 40 convicted this year on various anti-state charges.
One jailed dissident, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, who was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2010, has been on a hunger strike for 30 days to send a message to authorities to improve rights in the country, his family told AFP.
“We’re shocked and so worried for him because he had made a very difficult and dangerous decision (not to eat),” Thuc’s brother Tran Huynh Duy Tan said. — AFP