October 16, 2009

His Excellency Nguyên Minh Triêt

President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
C/O Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Your Excellency,

On behalf of the 3,400 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 extreme concern regarding sentences handed down to novelist and journalist Nguyen Xuan Nghia, poet Nguyen Van Tinh, human rights defender Nguyen Kim Nhan, poet Nguyen Van Tuc, student and Internet writer Ngo Quynh, and writer Nguyen Manh Son

According to our information, the six writers were first detained in September 2008, and charged with conducting anti-government propaganda under Article 88 of Vietnam’s penal code for their pro-democracy writings and activities, in particular their membership in the banned pro-democracy group Bloc 8406. They were convicted following a two-day trial in Hanoi that concluded on October 9, and received sentences ranging from two to six years. 

Bloc 8406’s leader, Nguyen Xuan Nghia, who is also editor of the underground democracy journal To Quoc (Fatherland), received the heaviest sentence. The indictment, dated July 3, 2009, cited 57 pieces written by Nguyen Xuan Nghia from 2007 until his arrest in 2008, including poetry, literature, short stories and articles, which allegedly sought to “insult the Communist Party of Vietnam, distort the situation of the country, slander and disgrace the country’s leaders, demand a pluralistic and multiparty system…and incite and attract other people into the opposition movement.”  Nguyen Xuan Nghia, Nguyen Van Tinh, Nguyen Kim Nhan, Nguyen Van Tuc, Ngo Quhnh, and Nguyen Manh Son are among dozens of activists to have been arrested since September 2008 as part of an ongoing crackdown on peaceful dissent.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned that the climate for freedom of expression in Vietnam is deteriorating, and believes these writers have been sentenced solely for the peaceful expression of their views in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Vietnam is a signatory. We therefore call for their immediate and unconditional release, as well as the release of all others detained in Vietnam for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Hannah Pakula                 
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee  

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

His Excellency Le Cong Phung
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to the United States of America
Embassy of Vietnam
1233 20th Street NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036
Fax: (202) 861-0917

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