New York, July 9, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the guilty verdict handed down today to writer Tran Khue. The Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court sentenced Khue, 68, to 19 months in prison on charges of “taking advantage of democratic rights to infringe upon the interests of the state” and of violating a house arrest order, according to international news reports.
Khue’s sentence accounts for time already served, so he is slated for release on July 29. Khue has been imprisoned since December 29, 2002.
Khue was arrested after meeting with Hanoi-based writer and political activist Pham Que Duong, who was also arrested and who still faces trial. In recent years, Khue has written several articles and open letters critical of government policy. He established two online publications, Dialogue 2000 and Dialogue 2001, which included articles he and others wrote advocating political reform. In January 2002, the Vietnamese government ordered local officials to confiscate and destroy all printed copies of the publications.
At the time of his arrest, Khue was serving a two-year term of administrative detention, or house arrest. Authorities imposed the house arrest order on October 9, 2001, after Khue was involved in a failed attempt to legally register an independent anti-corruption organization. (Administrative Detention Order 31/CP allows the Vietnamese government to put individuals under house arrest for two years without due process.)
Pham Que Duong was arrested on December 28, 2002, after visiting Khue in Ho Chi Minh City. Duong, in prison since that time, is to be tried in Hanoi on July 14.
“Tran Khue should never have been convicted for exercising his constitutional right to free expression,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “The charges against both Tran Khue and Pham Que Duong should be dropped immediately.”