Tran Thi Nga (Thuy Nga)

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Vietnamese journalist Tran Thi Nga is serving nine years in prison to be followed by five years’ probation on charges of "spreading propaganda against the state.” Prosecutors cited 13 videos Nga produced and posted online, including films on a toxic maritime spill, territorial disputes with China, and state corruption to justify her conviction. Her conviction was upheld on appeal in December 2017.

Nga was sentenced on July 25, 2017, to nine years in prison and five years’ probation, according to news reports. After a one-day trial, the People’s Court in Ha Nam province, roughly 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of Hanoi, found Nga guilty under Article 88 of the penal code, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the vague offense of "propagandizing" against the state.

The verdict said that Nga produced and posted online videos that accused "the communist state of violating human rights and called for pluralism and the elimination of Article 4 of the Constitution," which enshrines a one-party state, news reports said.

As evidence, prosecutors presented 13 videos they said Nga produced and that they claimed were in violation of the law, including films on a toxic maritime spill, territorial disputes with China, and state corruption, reports said. Nga’s lawyer, Ha Huy Son, told media that the verdict was unfair and that Nga was not guilty, news reports said.

Nga appealed the conviction, but it was upheld on December 22, 2017, according to news reports.

Nga, an activist who blogs under the pen name "Thuy Nga," reported on various state abuses, including trafficking, the confiscation of land, and police brutality, according to reports.

When authorities arrived to arrest the blogger at her home in northern Ha Nam province on January 21, 2017, she posted video clips online showing the dozens of police officers who had surrounded her house, reports said.

Nga was held for over six months in pretrial detention. Before her arrest, she had complained about years of official harassment. In 2014, assailants attacked her with metal bars while she rode a bicycle with her children, breaking her left arm and right leg, according to news reports.

Her lawyer, Ha Huy Son, said Nga’s health had deteriorated due to an aggravated mucosal condition and that prison authorities had denied her medical treatment for the ailment.

He wrote in an October 3, 2017, Facebook post that authorities held her in solitary confinement for five days and barred family prison visits as punishment for her decision to appeal her conviction.

In March 2018, Nga was transferred to Gia Trung prison in Gia Lao province, located over 1,000 kilometers from her home province, according to news reports. This relocation tactic is often used to isolate political prisoners from their families and networks of support, according to The 88 Project, an advocacy group that monitors the situations of Vietnamese political prisoners.

In August 2018, Amnesty International reported that Nga had been physically beaten by a cellmate who had made death threats against her. The 88 Project reported that prison authorities had not responded to the security threat and said Nga suspected they had put the cellmate with her in an attempt to force her to confess to the charges on which she was convicted. 

Nga’s husband, Phan Van Phong, sent an appeal to the prison in Gia Trung, claiming the prison’s actions against Nga were in violation of the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which Vietnam has ratified.

As of late 2019, Nga was still being held at Gia Trung prison in Gia Lai province, according to The 88 Project.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security, which oversees the country’s prison system, did not respond to CPJ’s emailed requests for comment in late 2019 about Nga’s health and status in prison, or the allegations that he had been mistreated and tortured.