On March 24, the local Nam Dinh Provincial People’s Court held an appeal hearing for Vietnamese activist Do Nam Trung, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison and four years of probation on charges of “distributing anti-state propaganda” last December under Article 117 of Vietnam’s 2015 Penal code. The appeals court announced its decision on the same day, upholding Trung’s previous sentencing.
Do Nam Trung, 40, is an activist famous for his work on the promotion of freedom of expression, human rights, and democracy in Vietnam. His activism includes his participation in and calling for protests opposing China’s actions in the South China Sea, which resulted in his arrest and 14-month incarceration in 2014.
After being released from prison, the Nam Dinh-based activist continued his role as an activist, which included demanding the suspension of Taiwan-based Formosa Steel Plant’s operations following its environmental scandal, helping rescue people living in flooded and landslide-prone areas, calling for the boycott of corrupt toll booths, as well as working with victims of land confiscation in Vietnam and informing them about their rights.
Trung was also a frequent target of coordinated harassment from the government-backed army of cyber trolls. Trung’s Facebook account, which he used as a platform to report his activities, had been constantly under mass reporting by Vietnam’s online Force 47 and often resulted in a temporary suspension of his account.
According to Nguyen Thi Anh Tuyet, Trung’s partner, his parents and sister were able to enter the courthouse while she was not. The court insisted that only “family members” were allowed inside.
Previously, Tuyet wrote on her Facebook account that Do Nam Trung’s overall health remained stable and that his condition while in detention was acceptable. He also received full COVID-19 vaccinations, she added.
Prior to the Nam Dinh activist’s trial last year, rights advocate Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a press statement urged the Vietnamese authorities to “immediately release the human rights activist Do Nam Trung and drop all charges against him.”
“Do Nam Trung is the latest victim of Vietnamese government retaliation against citizens who refuse to remain silent in the face of injustice and rights abuses,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of HRW. “Global pressure on the Vietnamese government is needed to repeal this abusive criminal law that blatantly violates the right to free expression.”
Trung’s appeal hearing took place only one day after the Hanoi People’s Court tried independent journalist Le Van Dung. The court sentenced Dung to five years in jail and five years probation.