Sun, 23 Feb 2020

Fifteen Vietnamese protesters handed jail terms for their role in mass protests in Bien Hoa city in June will go before a judge on Thursday to appeal their sentences, sources said.

The 15, part of a larger group of 20 convicted on July 30 on charges of disrupting public order, are the only members of the group to appeal their sentences, which ranged from eight months to one and a half years.

Speaking to RFA's Vietnamese Service on Wednesday, defense lawyer Dang Dinh Manh said the 15 are not guilty of the charges made against them.

"They only held flags and banners, which read 'Against the cybersecurity law and the law on special economic zones,'" Manh said.

"They simply expressed their opinions and did not disrupt public order. Our argument is that they are innocent," he said.

Meanwhile, Manh and two other lawyers representing the 15 protesters appealing their sentences were attacked on Tuesday, two days before the scheduled hearing, by an object thrown at their car that shattered a window on the vehicle's right side, the Vietnamese rights group Defend the Defenders said on Nov. 6.

Nationwide protests

The June 10 protest in Bien Hoa was one of several held in cities and provinces around the country to express public opposition to the proposed law that would grant 99-year leases for the economic zones to foreign investors.

Many feared that the leases would be snapped up by investors from neighboring China, with which Vietnam has had tense bilateral relations in recent years, in part due to territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Some of the demonstrations also focused on a proposed cybersecurity law that protesters said would limit free speech in one-party communist Vietnam, where dissent is rarely tolerated and public unrest is quickly suppressed.

About 100 people have been tried and convicted so far for their involvement in the protests, with more likely to be tried in coming weeks, Defend the Defenders said.

Reported by RFA's Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Richard Finney.

Copyright © 1998-2018, RFA. Published with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036

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