Two high-profile journalists imprisoned in Vietnam were released in 2006 amid sustained international pressure; only Binh remained in jail. A former journalist who worked for almost 10 years at the official publication Tap Chi Cong San (Journal of Communism), Binh was arrested after security officials searched his home in Hanoi.
Binh was held for more than 15 months in Hoa Lo Prison before his trial on espionage charges on December 31, 2003. Hanoi People’s Court sentenced him to seven years in prison, followed by three years of house arrest upon release. His wife was the only family member allowed in the courtroom; foreign diplomats and journalists were barred from his trial.
According to state media reports, Binh was sentenced because he had “written and exchanged, with various opportunist elements in the country, information and materials that distorted the party and state policies.” He was also accused of communicating with “reactionary” organizations abroad.
In an open letter to Vietnamese leaders in September 2006, Binh’s wife wrote that the charges against him were based on his petitions to form an opposition party and his essay, “Vietnam and the Road to Resurrection,” which “expressed my husband’s vision of a prosperous, democratic Vietnam with true human rights on par with other neighboring nations,” according to a translation received by CPJ.
CPJ sources believe that his arrest was also linked to his August 2002 essay, “Some Thoughts on the China-Vietnam Border Agreement.” His detention came during a government crackdown on critics of land and sea border agreements signed by China and Vietnam as part of a rapprochement following the 1979 conflict between the two countries. Several writers criticized the government for agreeing to border concessions without consulting the Vietnamese people.
Binh’s wife said that he was hospitalized several times for food poisoning since his imprisonment. When she visited him in early September 2006, his health appeared to have suffered a decline, and he was on medication for a chronic stomach ailment. Binh also suffers from high blood pressure, she said.