Hanoi Court upholds 10-year imprisonment of former prisoner of conscience Truong Duy Nhat

On the afternoon of Aug 14, the Higher People’s Court in Hanoi rejected the appeal of former prisoner of conscience and reporter of the Radio Free Asia (RFA) Truong Duy Nhat and upheld the ten-year imprisonment given by the People Cout of Hanoi for the charge of power abuse.

The court still said that Mr. Duy Nhat committed wrongdoing while he was on duty when he sold the public property in Danang to businessman Phan Van Anh Vu.

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Mr. Truong Duy Nhat in the appeal hearing told the Hearing Panel: “I have not committed any wrongdoing, if the decision is made to be wrong, it will be in the Editorial Board because I followed the authorization of the Editor-in-chief

Previously, in the first-instance hearing on March 9, Mr. Truong Duy Nhat was sentenced to 10 years in prison on the charge of “abusing position and powers while on duty.”

What does the indictment say?

According to the first-instance judgment, the case began in October 1996, when Dai Doan Ket newspaper- where Mr. Truong Duy Nhat used to be the head of the Central region Office – sent an official letter to the People’s Committee of Danang City to request for providing a building in a convenient location in the city center as a representative office headquarters of the newspaper in the region.

This newspaper did not intend buying a public house, but Mr. Nhat – who was assigned to contact the local authority to ask for land – signed a document sent to the People’s Committee of Danang City to buy a house and land under this category.

After buying a house for Dai Doan Ket newspaper at a favorable price of VND645 million from the People’s Committee of Danang City, Nhat transferred to Mr. Vu Nhom’s company (Phan Van Anh Vu), so that this company acquire public land at low prices.

The indictment stated that this is a “very serious” illegal act causing more than VND13 billion of damage to the State property.

At the appeal hearing, Mr. Nhat insisted his innocence.

Mr. Nhat said that he was not responsible for assisting Phan Van Anh Vu in acquiring public real estate No. 82 Tran Quoc Toan as alleged, but to follow the assignment of Dai Doan Ket newspaper. And that if the sale of land has caused damage for the state property, the responsibility belongs to the seller, ie the People’s Committee of Danang City.

Mr. Nhat also admitted that his behavior was not in accordance with the law, but with the consent of the newspaper.

The defendant has no personal motivation, just wants to benefit the newspaper. The defendant himself did not receive any benefit from Company 79 or from Phan Van Anh Vu. Dai Doan Ket newspaper was not harmed but benefited. The defendant is also praised by the Editorial Board for launching this ‘initiative’,” Nhat testified in court, according to Danang Newspaper’s report.

Mr. Phan Van Anh Vu, who was involved in the case of Mr. Nhat, also attended the hearing. Mr. Anh Vu also said that Mr. Nhat was innocent ‘because Dai Doan Ket newspaper was not damaged because it did not need to spend money but could still use real estate as an office for 30 years, according to Danang Newspaper.

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Mr. Phan Van Anh Vu at the trial said that the prosecution against Mr. Nhat was wrong, he confirmed that Mr. Nhat was wrongly convicted.

According to lawyer Dang Dinh Manh, the Editor-in-chief and the deputy editor-in-chief of the Dai Doan Ket newspaper together with Mr. Truong Duy Nhat were identified as having the same behavior in causing the loss of state assets in 2014.

However, these two men were said to have caused the damage of VND301 million based in the land price in 2004 and their wrongdoing has not mounted to criminal offence while Mr. Nhat, though being a subordinate, was determined to have caused bigger loss based on the land price in 2018. Lawyer Manh said by phone as follows:

While in the same case, in the same incident that happened in Danang and in the same property lost, Mr. Truong Duy Nhat was charged with the property value in 2018 as up to VND13 billion.

Due to the amount of money that was so large, he was both prosecuted for criminal responsibility and was sentenced to a very severe 10 years imprisonment. This is a very unreasonable point that does not guarantee that everyone is equal before the law.”

According to the Tuoi Tre newspaper network, at today’s hearing, Mr. Truong Duy Nhat proposed to summon a number of people involved in the case, his lawyers also proposed to convene the presiding judge of the first-instance hearing to determine how to apply the law, to summon investigators, first-instance procurators and assessors in the case. However, this proposal has not been approved by the appeal hearing panel.

As we have informed, on January 26, 2019, Nhat suddenly disappeared in Bangkok, Thailand just one day after arriving at the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees to apply for political asylum. Mr. Nhat also mentioned this in court and offered to charge him two days of loss of freedom.

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Mr. Truong Duy Nhat wrote his application for political asylum in Bangkok in January 2019, the day before news of his abduction was reported, the earliest published by blogger Bui Thanh Hieu on the social network

Mr. Truong Duy Nhat said during the appeal hearing that he was arrested on January 26, 2019 and that he was arrested by the Thai Royal Police who later handed him over to the Vietnamese police force. He was deported from Thailand via Laos to Vietnam.

When arriving in Hanoi on Jan 28, Vietnam’s police made official arrest and sent him to the local detention facility.

According to lawyer Manh, Nhat said that during the kidnap and deportation to the home country, he lost an iPhone 8 and the amount of $8,000 but was not recorded in the investigation conclusion and indictment.

Information about the appeal hearing posted on Facebook of lawyer Le Cong Dinh is as follows:

The Procuracy avoided arguments, but the lawyers raised many legal issues proving that Mr. Truong Duy Nhat was innocent, so the presiding judge was forced to intervene by declaring … ending the argument. (!) (?).

Lawyer Nguyen Ha Luan exclaimed: “The procuracy has eluded arguments and evaded the truth!”

In addition, according to the record at the appeal, in his last remarks this afternoon, Mr. Truong Duy Nhat stated verbatim as follows:

Based on the legal grounds and evidence of court inquiry in both the first-instance and appeal hearings, if you have knowledge of the law and have a bit of conscience, you cannot convict me.”

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The famous blog “Một góc nhìn khác/Another perspective” of Mr. Truong Duy Nhat, when he was not arrested. In 2004, the France-based Reporters Without Borders honored journalist Truong Duy Nhat as one of the world’s 100 Information Heroes

In this incident, I am the one who brings great benefits to Dai Doan Ket newspaper, not the one who caused the damage, has not done any wrongdoing, has no interest or motive at all, and has not committed sin. All is just a despicable political enemy to silence Truong Duy Nhat’s voice.

During the interrogation, the investigators reassured me that a turnaround would come. Then, they will be the one to take my place today. I understood and realized this real anxiety about them. It will come in the very near future. Most likely, the retribution will fall on their own lifetime, not waiting for descendants.

So, for cases like ours, the important thing is not in our punishment but in the awakening value in the opposite direction. Do not let future generations and grandchildren look back to shamefully bow to their ancestors’ wrong decisions, a time of chaos, a time when the country thought there were happiness and greatness but in fact, there is not.

To my colleagues, journalists who are attending and watching the hearing, please give complete and honest information and especially my last words. If it is not possible to broadcast on television and newspapers, please post it on your personal website. I thank you for this!”

Finally, to wrap up my final words in today’s appeal hearing, let me read the four verses I scribbled last night:

Oh, the country was in chaos

Stupid people became leaders

Motherland or we have committed faults

No bright people but only crazy ones

Mr. Truong Duy Nhat, born in 1964, was sentenced to 2 years in prison in 2014 on charges of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the legitimate rights and interests of the state” under Article 258 of the Penal Code.

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Mr. Truong Duy Nhat talks to journalist Mac Lam about Tran Huynh Duy Thuc in the program of RFA in the US in May 2016

Previously he wrote 11 posts on his blog, including “Evaluating the Prime Minister’s works” and demanding “The Secretary-General to leave.”

Reporters Without Borders, based in France in 2014, honored journalist Truong Duy Nhat as one of the 100 “Information Heroes” of the world.

In 2015, he was released from prison and later became one of the bloggers of Radio Free Asia.

Thoibao.de (Translated)

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