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(Bangkok) ­– The outcome of the August 2, 2011 Appeals Court hearing on legal scholar Cu Huy Ha Vu’s conviction on national security charges will have important repercussions for the rule of law and freedom of expression in Vietnam, Human Rights Watch said today.

In a trial on April 4, in which Human Rights Watch found serious procedural violations, Dr. Vu was sentenced to seven years in prison for propagandizing against the Vietnamese government, under article 88 of the Penal Code. The conviction violated his right to free expression, Human Rights Watch said.

“Dr. Vu was jailed for political reasons in a trial that violated his rights,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Vietnamese authorities should at least do the right thing now with a fair and independent appeals hearing.”

Dr. Vu’s trial before the Hanoi People’s Court lasted less than six hours. The court refused the defense team's request for access to the documents on which the prosecution's case was based. Judge Nguyen Huu Chinh expelled a defense lawyer from court for continuing to request the documents. When the judge rejected requests by the remaining defense lawyers for the documents, they walked out of the trial in protest.

Vietnam has at least 486 political and religious prisoners. Dr. Vu is among approximately 40 peaceful activists, writers, bloggers, and members of independent religious groups who have been sentenced to prison since January 2009. Another 38 peaceful dissidents arrested in 2010, and 2011, are in detention centers awaiting trial.

The release of the writer Tran Khai Thanh Thuy on June 22, on condition she immediately leave Vietnam, was followed a little over a month later by the re-imprisonment of one of Vietnam’s most famous dissidents, Father Nguyen Van Ly.

“Rather than playing a revolving door game with peaceful government critics, this is an opportunity for the Appeals Court to correct the serious due process violations during Dr. Vu’s trial in April and ensure that his appeal is in full accordance with fair trial standards,” Robertson said.

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