Five Vietnamese activists drowned out the judge in the Ho Chi Minh City high court on Monday with shouts of “down with the trial” and “down with communists” after their appeals of lengthy 2018 subversion sentences were rejected, witness said.
The five members of the National Self-Determination Coalition -- Luu Van Vinh, Nguyen Quoc Hoan, Nguyen Van Duc Do, Tu Cong Nghia and Phan Trung – were appealing sentences ranging from eight to 15 years they received in a lower court last October.
The court upheld their sentences, which also include three years of probation, drawing the angry shouts from the activists, and a complaint from their lawyer.
“The sentences given to the defendants are so unjust,” said lawyer Dang Dinh Manh, who represented four of the five men.
“These are highly self-conscious citizens who want to contribute to the nation with their thinking. They just exchanged ideas and got arrested and charged with felonies with harsh sentences,” Manh told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
He called the government’s attitude “harsh to the extent of being draconian.”
Luu Van Vinh’s wife, Le Thi Thap, was the only family member of the defendants allowed to witness the appeal hearing, while other relatives had to watch the proceedings on TV screen in another room.
“This is the first time I have been allowed into the courtroom,” she said.
“As at the previous session, the judges just read out the verdict. The chief judge did not let the defendants defend themselves in full and their arguments were rejected completely,” Thap told RFA.
Reported by RFA's Vietnamese Service. Translated by An Nguyen. Written in English by Paul Eckert.