On July 29, 2004, a court in Ho Chi Minh City sentenced long-time political activist Dr. Nugyen Dan Que to thirty months imprisonment. Dr. Que had been detained without trial since March 17th, 2003, when he was arrested on his way to an internet café in Ho Chi Minh City. Counting time served in pre-trial detention, Dr. Que would be eligible for release in September 2005. Two other prominent writers and dissidents, Tran Khue and Pham Que Duong, were also convicted in July and sentenced to nineteen-months imprisonment. Because of time served, they were released on July 30th.
Dr. Que has been imprisoned twice before for a total of eighteen years for protesting Vietnam's violations of human rights. “The state hopes to cling to power by brainwashing the Vietnamese people through stringent censorship and through its absolutist control over what information the public can receive," he wrote. "[Dr.] Que has already spent sixteen months in prison for doing nothing more than exercising his constitutional right of free expression," said Ann Cooper, Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Nguyen Dan Que's brother, Dr. Quan Nguyen, is chairman of a Vietnamese human rights organization. He says the trial of Dr. Que was a mockery of justice. Dr. Que was denied legal counsel and prevented from knowing the charges against him until the day of trial. The trial was closed to the public, says Quan Nguyen, and his brother was prevented from calling witnesses in his defense:
"My brother has committed no crime by exercising the universal right to freedom of expression and speech. Since he should not have been in prison in the first place, he deserved to be released immediately and unconditionally. Instead, the Vietnamese government brought him to a kangaroo [phony] trial. This proves there is no freedom and democracy in Vietnam."
The U.S. State Department documents many human rights abuses by the Vietnamese government in its latest annual human rights report. These include arbitrary detention, denial of fair trial, and abridgement of freedom of religion, speech, expression, press, and assembly. Vietnamese citizens are also denied the right to change their government. Nguyen Dan Que and other prisoners of conscience have raised their voices against these abuses. And they are being heard around the world.