Catholic dissident jailed for defacing Vietnam flags

Outspoken blogger can serve 33-month prison term after her unborn baby reaches three years of age
Catholic dissident jailed for defacing Vietnam flags

Vietnam's national flag flies in the coastal resort city of Nha Trang in February to celebrate the 88th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of Vietnam. An activist has been jailed for defacing national flags. (Photo by James Duong/ reporter, Buon Ma Thuot
December 3, 2018
A Catholic human rights activist has been sentenced to 33 months in prison for daubing white paint on national flags.

Huynh Thuc Vy, an outspoken blogger and activist who has been under house arrest since August, was convicted by the People's Court of Buon Ho in Dak Lak province on Nov. 30.

The court demanded that Vy, who is eight weeks pregnant with her second child, serve the sentence after her unborn child turns three to give her time to nurse her baby, although she will be banned from travelling to other places and abroad.

Vietnam News Agency reported that Vy was found guilty of defacing the national emblem by smearing white paint on two Vietnamese flags erected by local authorities on a street in her hometown of Buon Ho on Sept. 1, 2017.

The agency said she posted a photo of the painted flags on Facebook with the comment: "Protesting the ceremony with red flags painted white."

Vietnam deems the desecration of state symbols an egregious offence.

Lawyer Dang Dinh Manh, who defended her in court, said Vy, whose father spent 10 years in jail for anti-state activity until 2002, sat during the trial instead of standing as a protest against the court's repression of her freedom to express her political views

Manh said Vy, who won a Hellman grant from Human Rights Watch in 2012 for her political writing on human rights, would not appeal to a higher court because the trial was a farce and she did not trust the country's judicial system.

Christian lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, president of Vietnam-based Brotherhood for Democracy, supported Vy's action of insulting the Vietnamese flag.

He said millions of people had sacrificed themselves so that the national flag rules the country but it has brought injustice and suffering to the nation for the last half-century.

"Now the flag is a symbol of the one-party politics which is opposed to revolution and democracy and is extremely reactionary," he said.

The former prisoner of conscience said the communist government, in the name of its flag, deprives the people of freedom of democracy, imprisons dissidents and infringes on religious freedom. Authorities freely embezzle public funds and destroy the country, he added.

"Destroying the flag is destroying a symbol of crime and injustice and opposing one-party communist politics," Dai said.

Amnesty International said in a statement that the ludicrous charge "must be dropped as it is aimed solely at silencing a dedicated, peaceful human rights activist." This was a politically motivated prosecution brought by the authorities in response to Vy's tireless work to expose human rights violations in Vietnam and hold the powerful to account.

Vietnam has convicted 50 rights activists this year.

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