The Higher People’s Court held the appeal hearing of political dissident Tran Duc Thach on March 24 in Vinh City, Nghe An province, according to the state-controlled newspapers such as An Nhan Dan, Nguoi Lao Dong, and Dan Tri newspapers.
The court ruled to keep the sentence of 12 years in prison and 3 years of probation given by the People’s Court of Nghe An in the first-instance which convicted him of carrying out “activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration,” at the first-instance hearing on December 15 last year, according to official newspapers.
Poet and veteran of the People’s Army Tran Duc Thach, 69 years old, was arrested by Nghe An police in April 2020. After being convicted and sentenced, appealed the court’s decision.
Being a former member of the Association of Writers of Nghe An province, Mr. Thach has written hundreds of poems, a novel, and many articles, most condemning corruption, injustice, and human rights abuses in Vietnam.
From March 2013 to July 2017, Mr. Tran Duc Thach together with Mr. Nguyen Van Dai, Pham Van Troi, Nguyen Trung Ton, and Nguyen Bac Truyen established an unsanctioned group called “The Brotherhood for Democracy.”
In the eyes of the Vietnamese government, this association is considered to have anti-government activities.
Authorities allege that the association is affiliated with illegal domestic and foreign organizations with the aim that when the force is strong enough, at the right time, it will openly operate, confront the government, change the political regime in Vietnam, eventually overthrow the communist’s administration.
More than five years ago, the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security arrested four Dai, Troi, Ton and Truyen, and several others on charges of “subversion activities.”
Mr. Thach himself was arrested in April 2020 after the authorities alleged that from the beginning of May 2019 to the beginning of March 2020, he composed and posted on Facebook many articles “distorting socio-economic policies and defaming senior leaders.
Lawyer Ha Huy Son told VOA that the appeal hearing of Mr. Thach took place quickly from 8.30 am to 10:15 am on March 24. In his defense for Mr. Thach, lawyer Son pointed out that the People’s Court of Nghe An had seriously violated the proceedings during the first-instance hearing.
Providing more details about this on his personal Facebook page, lawyer Son wrote: “The 2015 Criminal Code came into effect from January 1, 2018. But the first instance verdict adjudicated Mr. Thach’s actions before January 1, 2018, related to the Brotherhood for Democracy, key members of which were arrested in December 2015.” This violated a 2017 resolution of parliament on the implementation of the 2015 Criminal Code, Mr. Son argued.
The defense lawyer also argued that supporting or building a system of “pluralism and multi-party,” “three-power-branch separation,” and “building the economy, taking the private economy as the foundation” are not a prohibition in the 2013 Constitution or a crime in the 2015 Criminal Code.
Lawyer Son also raised the issue that Mr. Thach might make excessive statements, but if the ruling Communist Party had not committed mistakes, corruption, and injustice, Mr. Thach would not have written against the regime.
Attorney Son noted that Mr. Thach is from a family with a party tradition, Mr. Thach’s father is a district commissioner, and he himself spent his youth working in the communist army.
However, Mr. Son’s defense did not make the court panel of the appeal hearing change the verdict made by the court panel in the first instance.
Reaction to the upholding the sentence against Mr. Thach, activist-former prisoner of conscience Nguyen Van Dai now living in exile in Germany wrote on Facebook: “Strongly condemn the Vietnamese Communist dictatorship for upholding the 12-year imprisonment of poet Tran Duc Thach!”
This is the second time that a dissident, veteran soldier of the communist army Thach has been imprisoned by the government. In 2008, Mr. Thach was convicted and sentenced to 3 years in prison and 3 years of probation for “conducting anti-state propaganda.”