NEW YORK--A Vietnamese court sentenced two Falun Gong practitioners to jail Thursday for broadcasting uncensored news programs via radio into China, according to their lawyer and media reports. Meanwhile, police reportedly beat and detained other Falun Gong practitioners who had quietly gathered outside the courtroom for a sit-in to protest the trial.
Mr. Vu Duc Trung, a 31-year-old CEO of a high-tech company, and his 36-year-old brother-in-law Mr. Le Van Thanh were sentenced in Hanoi to 3 and 2 years in prison, respectively. The pair have been in custody for 17 months, which will be subtracted from their sentence. The trial lasted half a day and sources close to the case say the verdict appeared to have been predetermined in advance.
"I said Vietnam does not have any law that bans Falungong, so we cannot put them on trial," their lawyer Tran Dinh Trien told Agence France Press.
The Epoch Times reported that a witness present at the trial said that the lawyer refuted every point raised by prosecutors, who had no rebuttal.
“This is not a trial,” a colleague of Trung's who was at the trial said. “It is just a way to frame people. The judges could not respond to any of the points Trien made. They just passed their sentence anyway.”
Reporters without Borders (statement) and Freedom House (alert) issued statements condemning the sentencing.
"This is a sad day for Vietnam," says Falun Gong spokesman Erping Zhang. "These men's broadcasts of uncensored news to China did absolutely nothing to harm Vietnamese society or break Vietnamese law. They should be celebrated as heroes, not treated like criminals."
"Sentencing Trung and Thanh to prison in a show trial is shameless and sets a dangerous precedent of the Vietnamese government caving to Chinese Communist Party pressure," says Zhang. "We hope the international community can redouble its efforts to free these men immediately and use whatever leverage possible to ensure that the Vietnamese authorities stop abusing local Falun Gong practitioners."
Trung and Thanh were charged with “transmitting information illegally onto the telecommunications network” for having broadcast news programs of Sound of Hope radio via short-wave radio into China. Sound of Hope’s programs typically report on human rights abuses, corruption, and repression of Falun Gong practitioners and other persecuted groups. Trung initiated the broadcasts in April 2009. The two men were abducted on June 11, 2010 and have remained in custody since, with very few family visits.
The mistreatment of Trung and Thanh is occurring amidst a broader intensification of Vietnamese harassment of the local Falun Gong community following direct Chinese Communist Party pressure. According to the indictment used, the Vietnamese government arrested the men after a diplomatic memo was sent on May 30, 2010, from the Chinese Embassy to Vietnam's Ministry of Investigation and Security.
“The memo stated that the Police Department in China discovered radio signals coming from Vietnamese territory containing the same content about Falun Gong as heard on the ‘Sound of Hope’ radio station,” the indictment reads. “It was recommended that all ... activities of Falun Gong individuals in the Vietnam territory must be attacked and stopped.”
For more information, see:
- The Epoch Times, November 10, 2011, "Vietnam Broadcasters Sentenced in Show Trial, Witnesses Say"
- Agence France Press, November 10, 2011, "Vietnam Falungong jailed over China broadcasts"
- Freedom House, November 10, 2011, "Freedom House Condemns Prison Sentences for Vietnamese Broadcasters"
- Reporters without Borders, November 10, 2011, "Vietnam: Two citizen journalists jailed for illegally broadcasting to China"