Vietnam convicts pro-democracy novelist of assault (Roundup)

5 02 2010


February 5, 2010

Hanoi – A Hanoi court convicted a pro-democracy writer and her husband of assault Friday in a case that has drawn condemnation from foreign governments and human rights organizations.

Writer Tran Khai Thanh Thuy, 49, was sentenced to 42 months in prison after a one-day trial. Her husband Do Ba Tan, 50, received 24 months’ house arrest.

The court ruled Thuy and Tan had assaulted two men on October 8. The couple said the men attacked Tan after an argument about the parking of his motorbike and Thuy came to his defence.

Human rights organizations have alleged the charges were retaliation against Thuy, a novelist active for years in Vietnam’s tiny pro-democracy movement.

Earlier on October 8, Thuy had attempted to attend the trial of a fellow democracy activist in the city of Haiphong but was stopped on the highway by police and ordered to return to Hanoi.

At Friday’s trial, prosecutors charged that after Tan exchanged blows with Nguyen Manh Diep, 41, his wife hit Diep over the head with a stick and threw a small cinder block at him.

Thuy said Diep attacked her husband without provocation and she hit Diep’s companion Nguyen Van Thinh, 51, on the arm by accident. Thuy and Tan were questioned overnight by police after the altercation and arrested on October 9. Police released a datemarked digital photo they said showed a bloody Diep being treated at hospital.

Analysis of the digital photo showed the datemark had been inserted with image-editing software while file data suggested it had been edited before the altercation took place.

Thuy is a novelist and essayist who in 2006 helped found an association for people with land claims against Vietnam’s government. In 2007, she was imprisoned for nine months, and she has continued to complain of harassment.

Human rights groups have called for her release as have six members of the US Congress.

Vietnam has arrested scores of democracy activists, independent writers and bloggers in a recent crackdown on dissent. None of the more than a dozen trials over the past year have resulted in an acquittal.




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