Prominent writer sentenced

New York, July 29, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the sentence handed down today to writer Nguyen Dan Que by the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court. Que was sentenced to 30 months in prison on charges of “taking advantage of democratic rights to infringe upon the interests of the state.”

Que did not have legal representation at the trial, and foreign journalists and diplomatic observers were not allowed to attend. Sources say that court officials repeatedly interrupted Que and removed him from the courtroom when he defended his beliefs before the judge.

Que was arrested at his home in Ho Chi Minh City on March 17, 2003, four days after he wrote an essay titled “Communiqué on Freedom of Information in Vietnam.” The commentary, which was distributed online, condemned the government’s strict censorship policies and “absolutist control over what information the public can receive.”

After his arrest, the government did not release any further information about Que’s legal status until announcing his trial earlier this month. Que’s wife has not been allowed to visit or speak with him since his arrest, and he has reportedly been in poor health.

Que, an endocrinologist, is also a prominent writer and political activist. Since 1978, he has spent a total of 18 years in prison.

Que is the third writer in less than one month to be convicted on charges of “taking advantage of democratic rights to infringe upon the interests of the state.” Two other prominent writers and political activists, Tran Khue and Pham Que Duong, are due to be released this week after serving 19 month sentences on similar grounds.

“It is deplorable that Nguyen Dan Que should remain imprisoned for expressing his views on government policies,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “CPJ calls on the government of Vietnam to repeal this unjust sentence and release Que immediately.”

For more information about Nguyen Dan Que, please see CPJ’s July 20 news alert.