In October, nine dissidents arrested in September 2008 for unfurling banners, distributing leaflets, posting on the internet information criticizing government policies and calling for democracy, were tried. They were all charged under Article 88. The first trial took place at Ha Noi People's court, where poets Tran Duc Thach and Pham Van Troi were sentenced to three and four years' imprisonment respectively.
- Vu Hung , a physics teacher, received a three-year sentence at the trial. He went on hunger strike in late 2008 after security officers repeatedly beat him during interrogation. He went on hunger strike again following his trial in protest at his sentence and conditions of detention. Police officials had arrested him earlier during a peaceful demonstration in April 2008, when he was beaten before being released.
In the second trial, six men, including writers Nguyen Xuan Ngia, aged 60, and Nguyen Van Tinh, aged 67, were sentenced to between three and six years' imprisonment.
All nine defendants also received up to four years' probation or house arrest on release.
Discrimination - ethnic and religious groups
Security officials continued to arrest, harass and closely monitor members of religious groups perceived to be opponents of the government. The Supreme Patriarch of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Viet Nam (UBCV), Thich Quang Do, remained under de facto house arrest, and other leaders faced restrictions on movement and close surveillance.
Security forces confronted Catholics and members of the minority Khmer Krom in disputes over land ownership, using unnecessary force against and arresting peaceful protesters.
In September and December, the authorities orchestrated mobs, including plain-clothes police, to intimidate, harass and physically attack almost 380 followers of Buddhist monk Thich Nhan Hanh to force them to leave their monastery in Lam Dong province.
At least six minority Montagnards in the Central Highlands were sentenced in April and September to between eight and 12 years' imprisonment on charges of "undermining national solidarity". An unknown number remained imprisoned since large scale protests about land confiscation and freedom of religious practice in 2001 and 2004.
After discussions in the National Assembly, members voted to remove the death penalty for eight crimes, including four economic offences, reducing the number of capital offences to 21; the Ministry of Justice had proposed a reduction of 12 crimes. The death penalty for drug trafficking, for which most death sentences are handed down, was retained. The government maintained its policy of secrecy on all aspects of the death penalty, including statistics. According to media reports 59 people were sentenced to death during the year, and nine executions were reported by the media.