Vietnamese blogger and human rights advocate Huynh Thuc Vy was sentenced on Friday by a court in Vietnam to a two-year and seven-month prison term for "affronting the national flag or national emblem” under Article 276 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.
Huynh, 33, was charged for having posted a photo of herself online next to a national flag defaced with paint, and was taken away on Aug. 9 by police in Dak Lak province’s Buon Ho town after refusing previous summons to come in to their offices for questioning.
Speaking to RFA’s Vietnamese Service following her half-day trial, Huynh said that the sentencing court had failed to prove the prosecution’s case against her, saying that “the judges simply took out their ready-made sentence and read it out.”
Huynh’s lawyer Dang Dinh Manh had made three specific points at her trial which were not addressed by the court, Huynh said.
“First, not just any red flag with a gold star can be considered to be the national flag, because the size of the country’s flag is specified by Vietnam’s constitution, and the flags that I sprayed paint on were of different sizes.”
Second, Huynh said, Manh had asserted that Huynh had acted from a political motivation rather than from any wish to insult the national honor. And third, she said, Article 276 of the Penal Code of Vietnam does not conform to the rights of political expression guaranteed by the U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
House arrest, for now
Huynh, now pregnant with her second child, will remain under house arrest until her child stops nursing at age 3, and will then be sent to prison to serve her full term, media sources said on Friday.
In a statement Friday, Phil Robertson—Deputy Asia Director of the international rights group Human Rights Watch—slammed Huynh’s sentence, saying the young mother will now “be separated for years from her child simply for expressing views the government doesn’t like.”
“Vietnam’s decision to imprison Huynh Thuc Vy for splattering the national flag with white paint shows just how extreme Vietnam’s rights abusing attacks have become against activists and bloggers.”
“Vietnam has really become the bottom of the barrel in Southeast Asia when it comes to human rights,” Robertson said.
Huynh, a founder of the advocacy group Vietnamese Women for Human Rights, is the oldest child of former political prisoner Huynh Ngoc Tuan, who spent ten years in prison in 1992-2002 for sending a political book he had written out of the country.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by An Nguyen. Written in English by Richard Finney.