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Truong Duy Nhat

Contributor and blogger, RFA Vietnamese Service

A court in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi on August 14 upheld the 10-year sentence imposed earlier this year on Truong Duy Nhat, who had been a weekly contributor for RFA’s Vietnamese Service’s blog section before his January 2019 abduction in Thailand by police.

The court rejected Nhat’s appeal and sent him back to prison to serve his full term, his lawyer told RFA. Nhat, who had earlier been jailed in Vietnam from 2013 to 2015 for his writings criticizing Vietnam’s government, has said he is the victim of political persecution.

Nhat was convicted on March 9 of “abusing his position and authority while on duty” over a decade-old land fraud case involving state property while serving as bureau chief at a newspaper in Danang city between 2003 and 2004. He and his lawyer contested key details of the old business deal. RFA had condemned the March conviction, calling it a blow against free speech and free expression. “This miscarriage of justice only reinforces RFA’s mission to provide the people of Vietnam with uncensored perspectives, and accurate news and information,” RFA had said at the time.

Nhat had gone missing on January 26, 2019, and last communicated with Washington-based RFA editors two days earlier over his commentary on the growing opposition movement in Venezuela and the prospects of change in Communist-ruled Vietnam.

Nhat’s disappearance had sent a chill through the Vietnamese refugee community in Thailand and prompted a call from Human Rights Watch for Thai authorities to investigate. RFA had also reported his case to the State Department and staff of several U.S. lawmakers.

New details revealed

During the August hearing, Nhat disclosed new details of his arrest, defense lawyer Dang Dinh Manh told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.

After seeking political asylum in Thailand at the beginning of 2019, Nhat said he had been arrested by Thai Royal Police on January 26 and handed over to Vietnamese police, who then took him across the border into Laos, and from there back to Vietnam.

During the course of Nhat’s arrest and transfer, his mobile phone and U.S. $8,000 were taken from him, his lawyer said.

“Finally, the Vietnamese police brought him to the Mai Dich Ward in Hanoi on January 28, and then made a formal record of his arrest, two days after he had been taken into custody by police in Thailand,” Dang said.

Nhat had asked during the August hearing that the presiding judge and investigators from his earlier trial be summoned to explain the discrepancy in the charges and clarify how the relevant laws were applied, but the judges considering his appeal turned down the request, Dang said.

‘Others will raise their voices’

Writing on her Facebook page before the appeal trial, Nhat’s daughter Truong Thuc Doan said that authorities barred her and her mother from attending the appeal trial because of concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

“No matter how many years it takes, I will still wait for you. The Vietnamese authorities may imprison you, journalist Truong Duy Nhat, but thousands of other journalists of conscience will continue to raise their voices,” she wrote.

The Committee to Protect Journalists called on Vietnamese authorities to halt all legal action against Nhat and to release him from prison immediately. “As long as Vietnam jails journalists on spurious charges, the international community will not view the communist regime as a credible actor and partner,” Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative, said in a statement