CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 8 September 2018

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Social rights advocates jailed in Vietnam

HA TRINH (UCAN): Teresa Tran Thi Xuan, a 42-year-old social rights advocate, was sentenced to nine years in prison by The People’s Court in Ha Tinh Province on April 12 for “attempting to overthrow the people’s government,” according to the state-run Ha Tinh newspaper.
 
The newspaper reported on April 13 that Tran faces an additional five years under house arrest after finishing what observers called a very harsh sentence.
 
According to a source, who requested anonymity, security was tight outside the courthouse with a strong police presence and Tran’s relatives were only informed of the two-hour the trial when it was nearly over.
 
She was accused of sharing articles and video clips on social media from “reactionary groups” to undermine the government.
 
She was also accused of organising protests, in April 2017, at the local government headquarters against Taiwanese steel firm, Formosa, which was responsible for a massive toxic waste spill in the province. 
 
Tran comes from the district of Loc Ha which was badly affected by the disaster.
 
The court was told that she was also a member of the Brotherhood for Democracy, a domestic civil society organisation which the government views as reactionary group trying to overthrow the communist state.
 
The source called the sentence harsh and noted that Tran was being punished for helping elderly and poor people and opposing a social injustice created by the authorities.
 
Also on April 12, a court in neighbouring Nghe An province sentenced another advocate, Nguyen Viet Dung, to seven years in prison and five years house arrest for conducting “campaigns against the government.”
 
Meanwhile, another court in Hanoi sentenced advocate, Vu Van Hung, to a year in jail for “intentionally injuring authorities.”
 
Over the past two weeks, the Vietnamese government has jailed 10 advocates, sentencing them to terms totalling 96 years.

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