Vietnam journalist who tried to run for parliament jailed for 5 years

A Vietnamese journalist arrested after nominating himself as an independent candidate in elections to the country’s National Assembly was sentenced to five years in jail Friday by a court in the capital Hanoi, his lawyer and his wife said.

Le Trong Hung was arrested March 27 after declaring his candidacy for election in a challenge to political processes tightly controlled by the ruling Communist Party and charged with “creating, storing, disseminating information, materials, items and publications against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”

Hung, 79, is a former teacher and founder of CHTV Television, which formerly livestreamed videos on hot-button social and political issues.

The law he was accused of breaking, Article 117 of Vietnam’s Penal Code, is “vague” and Friday’s ruling was  “subjective,” Hung’s defense lawyer, Ha Huy Son, told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.

“Today’s trial started at 8:30 a.m. and ended at 12:15 p.m., with the announcement of five years in jail and five years of probation,” said Son.

Son also said the prosecution did not answer questions raised by the defense and “never showed up in court to present the grounds for the anti-state charges."

On Nov. 5, Hung’s lawyer and family were allowed access to the indictment filed against him by the Hanoi People’s Procuracy, learning that the case against Hung was based on four videos posted to his Facebook page covering politically sensitive issues, his wife Do Le Na said last month.

Topics discussed in the videos included a deadly Jan. 9, 2020 police crackdown during a land dispute in Dong Tam Commune, the role of the courts in Vietnam’s political system, and Hung’s own candidacy, Na said.

After the ruling, Na told RFA that Hanoi authorities stationed police in front of her house to prevent relatives from going to court; then later let them leave the family home only to stop then on the road.

“I am totally disappointed. I disapprove of this trial. It does not mean anything because it does not follow any norms of the Constitution or universal values of human beings worldwide,” said Na.

“I and my family no longer have trust in this legal system. My husband declared at the trial that he will not appeal and I respect his decision,” she added.

Hung’s sentence followed that of another would-be election candidate arrested for his online postings. Tran Quoc Khanh, 61, was sentenced to a six-and-a-half year prison term on Oct. 28.

Reported and translated for RFA’s Vietnamese Service by An Nguyen. Written in English by Paul Eckert.