A Vietnamese dissident and legal scholar from a prominent family has been sentenced to seven years in jail for allegedly attempting to subvert the Vietnamese government. Cu Huy Ha Vu is charged with calling for the dissolution of Vietnam's ruling Communist Party, advocating a multi-party system, and characterizing the Vietnam War as a civil war. According to news agency reports, Mr. Vu told the court, "I did not commit the crime of spreading propaganda against the state. This criminal case was invented against me. This case is completely illegal."
Mr. Vu, who has a doctoral degree in legal theory from the Sorbonne, was arrested in November and charged with anti-state propaganda for posting articles on the Web and giving interviews critical of the state, according to authorities. In calling for a multiparty system, Mr. Vu said, the Vietnamese Communist Party serves only "the illegal benefits of a small group." He also criticized the jailing of "hundreds of thousands" of former South Vietnamese soldiers and officials after the Communists won the Vietnam War in 1975.
In 2009, Mr. Vu sued Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung for approving a controversial Chinese-run bauxite mining operation in the Central Highlands. He sued the prime minister again last year for signing a decree that prohibited class-action complaints.
As a widely respected attorney, Mr. Vu has represented the interests of a wide base of individuals, including workers, bloggers, Catholic parishioners and land rights activists. Vigils at Catholic churches were inspired by Mr. Vu's support last year for Catholics embroiled in a land dispute with Vietnamese authorities.
The United States is deeply concerned by the conviction and sentencing of Cu Huy Ha Vu. The United States is also troubled by the apparent lack of due process in the conduct of the trial, and the continued detention of several individuals who were peacefully seeking to observe the proceedings.
Mr. Vu's conviction runs counter to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and raises serious questions about Vietnam's commitment to the rule of law and reform. No individual should be imprisoned for exercising the right to free speech. The United States urges the government of Vietnam to immediately release Cu Huy Ha Vu and all other prisoners of conscience.