Writer sentenced to 19 months in prison

New York, July 14, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns today’s conviction of writer and military historian Pham Que Duong. The Hanoi People’s Court sentenced Duong to 19 months in prison on charges of “taking advantage of democratic rights to infringe upon the interests of the state.”

The sentence accounts for time already served, so Duong, who was arrested on December 28, 2002, is scheduled for release in two weeks.

Duong, 72, was arrested at the Ho Chi Minh City train station after visiting with writer and literature professor Tran Khue. Khue was detained at his home in Ho Chi Minh City the next day. On July 9, 2004, the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court sentenced Khue to 19 months on the same charges. He will also be released at the end of July.

A former colonel in the Vietnamese army, Duong served as editor of Tap Chi Lich Su Quan Su (Military History Review) from 1982 to 1986. He later renounced his membership in the Communist Party and began writing essays and open letters advocating political reform, support for human rights, and press freedom.

In recent years, Duong has been under tight surveillance by authorities after becoming the de facto spokesperson for the pro-democracy movement in Vietnam. In September 2001, Duong and Tran Khue were involved in a failed attempt to legally register an independent anticorruption organization.

“CPJ is outraged that authorities detained Pham Que Duong for 18 months without charge before convicting him in a closed trial,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “The charges against Duong should be dropped.”

For further information about Pham Que Duong and Tran Khue, please see CPJ’s news alert, July 9, 2004, and CPJ’s news alert, July 7, 2004.