April 22, 2011

His Excellency Nguyên Minh Triêt
President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Nguyên Tân Dung
Prime Minister
1 Hoang Hoa Tham Street
Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,500 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our grave concern regarding the sentencing of dissident writer and activist Cu Huy Ha Vu.

According to our information, leading human rights defender and environmental activist Cu Huy Ha Vu was convicted of “conducting propaganda against the state” by a court in Hanoi on April 4, 2011, and was sentenced to seven years in prison and an additional three years of house arrest following his release. Authorities had initially suggested that the trial would occur openly, but responded to growing crowds of Vu’s supporters by cordoning off the area around the courthouse and blocking the entrance with police and military personnel.

Vu’s defense lawyers reportedly left the Hanoi courtroom in protest, and it is widely believed that the trial fell short of international standards of fairness. According to Vu’s wife Nguyen Thi Duong Ha, Vu has written to authorities rejecting their verdict and requesting an appeal.

Vu was arrested on November 5, 2010, after publishing critical articles online and giving interviews to foreign media. According to authorities, the articles were deemed to be “maligning party and state institutions and policies.”

PEN American Center is deeply concerned that Cu Huy Ha Vu has been imprisoned in direct violation of his right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Vietnam is a signatory. We are also concerned that his case is representative of a much larger effort by Vietnamese authorities to silence dissenting voices and clamp down on free expression throughout the country. We therefore call for Cu Huy Ha Vu’s immediate and unconditional release, as well as the release of all others currently detained for the peaceful expression of their views.

Thank you for your consideration of this urgent matter.

Hannah Pakula                                              
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee           
Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H.E. Le Cong Phung
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
1233 20th St NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036
Fax: (202) 861-0917

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