The Hanoi High People’s Court upheld a nine-year prison sentence against Vietnamese activist and journalist Pham Doan Trang during an appeal hearing on 25 August.
Radio Free Asia reports that Trang’s family and foreign diplomats were barred from the courtroom in which the hearing took place. Trang pleaded not guilty, despite her lawyers’ advice that a guilty plea was more likely to see her sentence reduced or dismissed.
Trang was initially arrested on 7 October 2020 and was not permitted to meet with her lawyer until 19 October 2021. She was convicted of anti-State propaganda under Article 88 of the Criminal Code during a one-day trial on 14 December 2021. Her lawyer has also reported that Trang was found to have a small tumour after she was examined for health problems.
Trang has a long history of peacefully advocating for freedom and human rights in Vietnam as an independent journalist, and is the founder of an environmental rights group and several independent media outlets. In 2017, Trang and other writers produced a report on the right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) in Vietnam. The report concludes that “no religions (Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Hoa Hao Buddhism, Caodaism, Muslim, etc.) or beliefs can fully enjoy the right” to FoRB in the country.
Trang is one of several imprisoned activists to have had their appeals rejected this month. On 16 August the Provincial People’s Court in Dak Lak rejected the appeal of Y Wo Nie, and the Higher People’s Court in Hanoi dismissed the appeal of Le Van Dung. The next day, on 17 August ,the appeals of Trinh Ba Phuong and Nguyen Thi Tam, both of whom were arrested in June 2020 on charges of “conducting anti-state propaganda”, were rejected.
CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: “CSW is disappointed to learn that the Hanoi High People’s Court has rejected the appeal of Pham Doan Trang, who has only been targeted because of her work peacefully defending fundamental human rights. We call on the Vietnamese authorities to reverse this decision and to ensure the immediate and unconditional release of Trang and all others who have been imprisoned as a punishment for exercising their human rights or defending the rights of others, including the right to freedom of religion or belief.”