Updated: May 06, 2021 09:25 AM GMT
Trinh Ba Tu (right) and his mother Can Thi Theu attend a candlelight prayer for justice and peace at Thai Ha Church in Hanoi in February 2018. (Photo courtesy of nhathothaiha.net)
A well-known land rights activist and her son have each been jailed for eight years in Vietnam for posting news on social media about a land dispute that left four people dead.
The People's Court of Hoa Binh province on May 5 also placed Can Thi Theu, 59, and her son Trinh Ba Tu, 31, on probation for three years after they finish their sentences.
Hoa Binh newspaper reported that the defendants spread distorted news on Facebook about the bloody clash between Hanoi police and farmers in Dong Tam village on the outskirts of Hanoi in January 2020, leading to the tragic death of three policemen and the elderly leader of the village.
The newspaper said both activists were also found guilty of making and posting video clips that incited people to oppose the government, defaming communist leaders and lowering the party's prestige.
All streets leading to the court building were blocked by police, so supporters of the defendants had to stand far away.
Lawyer Dang Dinh Manh, one of four defense lawyers, said he was moved to tears by the defendants’ incisive and trenchant views before the judge at the one-day trial.
My son and I are innocent. We only spoke the truth. We oppose the communist government that has given us great pain
They quoted South Vietnam's former president Nguyen Van Thieu as saying: "Don't believe what communists say but look at what they do."
Manh told the judge that the main reason for land disputes between people and government authorities was unfair compensation policies made by the government. The defendants, who are also victims of unfair compensation, sympathized with and spoke out for farmers in Dong Tam village.
He said the judge should present the reasons for such cases to government agencies so that they adjust land regulations to ensure fairness for people.
Theu's daughter Trinh Thi Thao, who attended the trial, said her mother told the judge: "My son and I are innocent. We only spoke the truth. We oppose the communist government that has given us great pain. We suggest the judge free us.”
Theu was jailed for 15 months in 2014 and 20 months in 2016 for fighting against officials on duty and causing public disorder respectively.
Christian lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, head of the Brotherhood for Democracy, said Theu and Tu “only used freedom of the press and speech to express their political views, worries about social problems and report true news about the land clash in Dong Tam village.”
He called on the government to free the two activists and other jailed prisoners of conscience and political prisoners immediately and unconditionally.