By Huong Nguyen
your voice I couldn’t hear
your smile I couldn’t see
My heart filled with memories
and the shared moonlight, only…
I write these words with extreme sadness, as of September 5, I know my fiancé, Nguyen Tien Trung, a prisoner of conscience in Viet Nam, is not being released as part of the amnesty issued by the Vietnamese government to mark National Day (September 2nd). Only 5 “national security” prisoners were released on this occasion, and only one of them is a well-known dissident – blogger Phan Thanh Hai (aka Anhba SG) of the Freelance Journalist Club – whose term of imprisonment would end in one month anyway.
Trung’s parents visited him on September 5 for a short 30 minutes, during which Trung only had time to list the books he wanted his parents to send him. As if he had no anticipation of an early release. Yet, September 16, his birthday, is approaching. And it is still difficult for me to think of Trung having to spend his 30th birthday in prison.
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Activists accused of plotting to overthrow the communist regime stand listening to verdicts at a People’s Court in Vinh city, in the north-central province of Nghe An on January 9, 2013. Vietnam on January 13 jailed 13 activists convicted of plotting to overthrow the communist regime, in a new crackdown criticised by the US as part of a “disturbing” trend in the authoritarian state. (Vietnam News Agency/AFP/Getty Images)
I sit at my desk and write about human rights with ease, yet in Viet Nam, blogging can land you in prison. Last week, Vietnamese authorities convicted 14 activists for plotting to overthrow the government under article 79 of the criminal code. The sentences range from three to thirteen years. The activists were all linked to the US-based, pro-democracy group Viet Tan, which the Vietnamese government labels a terrorist organization. Five of the sentenced activists are bloggers who wrote about freedom of expression. Before the start of the trial, one of the bloggers, Dang Xuan Dieu, said, “I have done nothing contrary to my conscience” and that in punishing him, the government was “trampling on the eternal good morals of the Vietnamese nation.”
The defendants were all charged after attending a Viet Tan training course held in Bangkok in 2011. Viet Tan led a resistance movement in the 1980s, but has more recently called for democracy and peaceful change in Viet Nam. A spokesperson for the Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that none of the activists were alleged to have used violence.
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