UN experts call for release of Vietnamese activist

Pham Doan Trang was arrested in Ho Chi Minh City, according to Human Rights Watch. UN human rights experts on Friday (Oct 29) called for the immediate release of Vietnamese activist. - PHOTO: PHIL ROBERTSON/TWITTER via The Straits Times/ANN

GENEVA, Oct 30 (AFP): A group of UN human rights experts called for the immediate release of Vietnamese activist Pham Doan Trang (pic), who is awaiting trial after a year in detention.

The prominent Vietnamese author, who campaigns for press freedom and civil rights, was arrested in October last year.

Trang has pushed for change on a host of controversial issues, including land grabs and LGBTQ rights.

"Pham Doan Trang is only the latest victim of the authorities' use of vaguely-defined propaganda charges to persecute writers, journalists and human rights defenders," the experts said in a statement.

The UN experts said the charges against her stem from at least three human rights reports she co-authored, plus interviews with foreign media.

The accuse the authorities of "criminalising the exercise of their right to freedom of opinion".

The experts, who do not speak for the United Nations but report their findings to it, said they were "deeply alarmed" that her reports were being used against her by the prosecution.

"This could have far-reaching consequences and consolidate an environment of fear in Vietnam," they said.

"We urge the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Ms Pham Doan Trang."

The UN experts included the special rapporteurs on the right to freedom of opinion, on human rights defenders, and on the right to physical and mental health.

Trang, who has spoken out over forced confessions and corporal punishment in Vietnam, won an award in 2019 from media watchdog Reporters Without Borders for her work on press freedom.

In 2016, police detained her while on her way to a meeting with US president Barack Obama who had invited her to join a gathering of activists during his visit to Hanoi. - AFP

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