Calls for Tran Huynh Duy Thuc’s release fall on deaf ears – H Talk Asia

The Vietnamese authorities have ignored the recent request for the release of political prisoner Tran Huynh Duy Thuc from a 16-year sentence, as they have often done in the past.

He was arrested in May 2009 for writing online articles criticizing Vietnam’s one-party communist state and convicted in 2010 of conspiring to overthrow the government.

Thuc is being held in Detention Center No. 6 in Nghe An province on Vietnam’s north-central coast and has already served most of his 16-year sentence but still has five years of probation ahead of him.

On November 4, Thuc’s father, Tran Van Huynh, sent a motion to the president asking him to free Thuc from the remaining two years and six months in prison and drop the suspended sentence.

“My child is always proud of the things he has done to contribute constructively to the country’s development, even though he has been wrongly sentenced for ‘activities to overthrow the people’s government’ because of those things,” Huyn wrote in the petition, which did not answer received.

Thuc, 56, was an entrepreneur and former CEO of Vietnam’s internet phone company One Connection Internet (OCI).

He was convicted under the 1999 Criminal Code but has repeatedly requested that the charges against him be changed to “preparation to commit a crime” under Vietnam’s revised 2015 Criminal Code, which only carries a five-year sentence.

Since 2018, after spending more than eight years in prisons and detention centers, Thuc has applied to the Supreme People’s Court for a waiver of the remainder of his sentence.

His brother Tran Huynh Duy Tan told RFA Thuc he had petitioned many Vietnamese leaders and authorities, urging them to respect the law and release him. Tan said the prison authorities were only willing to send one of Thuc’s petitions to the Supreme People’s Court, so the family petitioned the president, prime minister and others.

“They didn’t deny it, but they didn’t answer either,” Tan said. “The State of Vietnam’s declaration on establishing the rule of law must be based on respect for the law and due process [they must] release Thuk.”

In an article published on his personal Facebook page, lawyer Ngo Ngoc Trai argued that Thuc could be classified as “preparing a crime” because he was not actively involved in founding or participating in an organization to overthrow the government, only that founded “Chan Research Group” with five members who left the group before he was prosecuted. Trai said that because the research group lacked rules, regulations and a hierarchy, it could only be seen as a forerunner of a political organization in the distant future. According to the Criminal Code, the formation of the group is only a “preparatory act”.

Attorney Le Cong Dinh told RFA that the two first-instance and appellate verdicts made no mention of “preparing to commit a crime” because the Criminal Code did not include that provision in 2010.

“The new law adds the act of preparing to commit a crime,” he said. “Considering that the actions of Mr. Thuc and his co-conspirators end only on this level, Mr. Thuc and his family have asked the court to reconsider based on the law.”

Dinh said the penal code recognizes the principle of applying the law in favor of the person serving the sentence. Therefore, when making a new ruling in favor of the convicted person, the court must review the original judgment.

After a series of hunger strikes lasting 100 days during which he called for his release, demanded improved prison conditions and protested the treatment he received from the police after his arrest, Thuc’s health was a continuing concern for his family.

The US, Australia, Canada, the European Union, the UK and many international human rights organizations have repeatedly spoken out about Thuc’s case and called on the government to release him.