HANOI, Vietnam – The U.S ambassador in Vietnam called on the Communist government Wednesday to release an activist who was sentenced to nine years in prison on what the envoy says are vague charges of propaganda against the state.
Tran Thi Nga was convicted and sentenced in a one-day trial Tuesday on charges of producing videos that defamed the country’s leadership. The 40-year-old campaigned against environmental pollution, police brutality and illegal land confiscation, and called for a tougher stance toward China’s assertive territorial claims in the South China Sea.
U.S. Ambassador Ted Osius said “all people have the right to the fundamental freedoms of expression, association and of peaceful assembly.” While Vietnam has made some progress on human rights, the trend of arrests, convictions and harsh sentences of peaceful activists is “deeply troubling,” he said.
“The United States calls on Vietnam to release Tran Thi Nga and all other prisoners of conscience, and to allow all individuals in Vietnam to express their views freely and assemble peacefully without fear of retribution,” he said.
The court also imposed five years of house arrest following Nga’s prison term, her lawyer Ha Huy Son said.
“I think this is an unjust verdict,” Son said. “She did not commit the crime for which she was convicted by the court.”