Cablegate: Thirteen-Year Sentence for Pham Hong Son

Published: Wed 18 Jun 2003 09:57 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: NA
SUBJECT: Thirteen-Year Sentence for Pham Hong Son
1. (U) This is an action request. See paragraph 7.
2. (SBU) Summary: The Hanoi People's Court sentenced Pham
Hong Son to thirteen years in prison followed by 3 years
administrative probation after a trial that lasted several
hours on June 18. The conviction appears to have been for
"espionage" under Article 80 of the SRV Criminal Code. The
charge against him does not specifically mention his
translation and distribution of "What is Democracy." His
wife, Vu Thuy Ha, was allowed into the trial, but poloff and
other foreign observers were barred, despite persistent
official requests to attend. Embassy requests clearance of
suggested press guidance. End Summary.
3. (SBU) Poloff obtained what appears to be a translation
of the charge against Son. The specific crime cited is:
"Providing or collecting secret information belonging to the
Government to foreign countries; collecting other documents
forward (sic) the purpose of using for foreign countries
against the Government of the Socialist Republic of
Vietnam." The charges mention no specific "countries," but
connect Son with Nguyen Gia Kieng, "a suspected leader of
Thong Luan's group in France." Embassy is not familiar with
this person or this group.
4. (SBU) According to a journalist who arrived early at
the court, Ms. Ha, Son's wife, was allowed into the court,
but her brother was not. The journalist said a few other
Vietnamese persons entered the court at that time, but he
did not recognize any of them, having expected to see some
of the activists who had appeared outside the court during
Le Chi Quang's trial in November 2002.
5. (SBU) Court officials did not allow poloff or any other
of eight foreign diplomats and journalists present to enter
the court. The Hanoi People's Court did not answer
Embassy's written request for permission to attend the
trial, although it had promised a reply by June 12. Embassy
phoned the court repeatedly beginning June 12, but court
officials invariably said that the Deputy Chief Judge -- who
alone had authority to answer -- was busy and/or
6. (SBU) Five other Western embassies submitted requests
to attend the trial, some through the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs' (MFA) Consular Department. None received a formal
response before the trial began. After repeated follow-up
phone calls, the Consular Department informed one Western
diplomat waiting outside the court over an hour after the
trial began that MFA would be informing the court that
"there was no need for foreigners to attend Son's trial."
The Canadian Embassy subsequently received a fax (Para 8)
from the MFA explaining the decision.
7. (SBU) Suggested press guidance:
We strongly condemn this harsh sentence on Pham Hong Son and
remain convinced than no one should be imprisoned even for
one day for the peaceful expression of non-violent views.
8. (SBU) Canadian Embassy unofficial translation of MFA
Consular Affairs fax:
"Pham Hong Son is a Vietnamese citizen who has violated
Vietnamese laws. The trial of (his) case is the internal
affairs of the Court. In addition, to date the People's
Court of Hanoi has not arranged for any representatives of
any foreign countries to attend a trial of a Vietnamese
citizen. Therefore it is regrettable that the People's
Court of Hanoi is not in a position to meet the request of
the Embassy."
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