Sunday, April 3, 2011

Vietnam trial starts for son of Ho Chi Minh ally - (AFP)


Courtesy of "Truyen Hinh Duc Me"

Vietnam trial starts for son of Ho Chi Minh ally - (AFP)

by Ian Timberlake Ian Timberlake – 44 mins ago

HANOI (AFP) – The son of a Vietnamese revolutionary leader, accused of calling for an end to one-party rule, went on trial Monday in one of the most politically charged cases in the communist nation's recent past.

Cu Huy Ha Vu, 53, whose court hearing takes place amid unusually tight security, was charged after twice trying to sue the prime minister.

The veteran activist faces up to 12 years in prison if convicted of "propaganda against the state", an allegation which rights campaigners say criminalises peaceful dissent.

His case has led to "an unprecedented movement of popular support", much of it on the Internet, from diverse groups including Catholics and academics, said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Police declared the area in front of the Hanoi People's Court a restricted zone, detained three young men, and blocked some women who were carrying a bouquet of flowers near the court, an AFP reporter witnessed.

They erected barricades to seal off several blocks around the courthouse, and used megaphones to disperse dozens of onlookers standing peacefully in a park outside the exclusion zone.

"Now you see about human rights in Vietnam," complained an old man with a bicycle, as baton-waving officers ushered people out of the park.

A university lecturer in the group said she and others present were supporters of the "heroic" Vu.

"It is a special case," she said, "because he dared to sue the prime minister."

Dozens of men in plainclothes were seen loitering in the area. Some filmed passers-by while a busload of anti-riot police and a fire engine waited.

Vu is the son of Cu Huy Can, who was a member of revered founding president Ho Chi Minh's provisional cabinet from 1945, and is also a celebrated poet.

The Vu case shows that "no matter who or what your connections are," if you cross a line you will be tried, said Carl Thayer, a Vietnam specialist at the University of New South Wales.

A limited number of journalists and foreign diplomats were allowed inside to watch proceedings via closed-circuit television with poor sound quality.

Vu wore a shirt and tie.

The indictment accused him of spreading propaganda against the state through writings, interviews with foreign media, and Internet material.

Between 2009 and October last year, Vu allegedly "defamed the administration" and advocated a multi-party system, the indictment said.

He said that the national leadership role of the Communist Party serves only "the illegal benefits of a small group", according to the indictment. It also says he criticised the jailing of "hundreds of thousands" of former South Vietnamese officials after the communist victory reunified the nation in 1975.

"He did push the envelope," said a foreign diplomat, who requested anonymity and described Vu as having "political and historical resonance".

Vu was arrested last November as political tensions rose before the Communist Party's January leadership Congress

Two years ago, he tried twice unsuccessfully to submit what he said was the first legal action against a Vietnamese prime minister.

The case against premier Nguyen Tan Dung sought the cancellation of a bauxite mining plan that had sparked unusually broad opposition.

However, the indictment against Vu did not refer to this legal challenge.

Vu studied law in France. He is not a licensed lawyer but ran a Hanoi law firm with his wife, Nguyen Thi Duong Ha.

Amnesty International said last month that more than 20 activists in Vietnam had been jailed over the previous year by the one-party regime.


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