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Long Prison Terms for ‘Dissident’ Vietnam Bloggers

After attending a training course in Bangkok organized by Vietnam Reform Party or Viet Tan, 14 people were arrested by Vietnam authorities for allegedly participating in “activities aimed at overthrowing the people's administration.” The arrested individuals were mostly Catholic students, bloggers, and human rights activists. Last January 9, a local court found them guilty of subversion by citing Article 79 of the penal code. Long prison sentences were handed out to the convicted individuals:

1. Ho Duc Hoa (13 years in prison, 5 years house arrest)
2. Dang Xuan Dieu (13 years in prison, 5 years house arrest)
3. Paulus Le Son (13 years in prison, 5 years house arrest)
4. Nguyen Van Duyet (6 years in prison, 4 years house arrest)
5. Nguyen Van Oai (3 years in prison, 2 years house arrest)
6. Ho Van Oanh (3 years in prison, 2 years house arrest)
7. Nguyen Dinh Cuong (4 years in prison, 3 years house arrest)
8. Nguyen Xuan Anh (5 years in prison, 3 years house arrest)
9. Thai Van Dung (5 years in prison, 3 years house arrest)
10. Tran Minh Nhat (4 years in prison, 3 years house arrest)
11. Nong Hung Anh (5 years in prison, 3 years house arrest)
12. Nguyen Dang Vinh Phuc (probation)
13. Nguyen Dang Minh Man (9 years in prison, 3 years house arrest)
14. Dang Ngoc Minh (3 years in prison, 2 years house arrest)

‘Dissident’ bloggers on trial. From Facebook page of Viet Tan

Viet Tanis a United States-based opposition political group which is banned by the Vietnamese government. They issued this statement on the day of the trial:

These activists, most of whom are in their 20s and early 30s, have tirelessly advocated for social justice, engaged in citizen journalism and participated in peaceful demonstrations against Chinese territorial encroachment. By persecuting these individuals for their peaceful expression and political advocacy, the Hanoi regime has shown once again its fear of civil society.

Human rights groups immediately reacted to the news and demanded the freedom of the convicted bloggers. Shawn Crispin of the Committee to Protect Journalists described the ‘harsh sentence’ as a suppression of independent reporting:

These harsh sentences demonstrate the outrageous lengths that Vietnamese authorities are willing to go to suppress independent reporting. We call on the authorities to reverse these convictions and release all journalists currently held behind bars on spurious national security-related charges.

Brad Adams of Human Right Watch suggests that Vietnam should honor the activists and not imprison them:

The conviction of yet more peaceful activists is another example of a government that is increasingly afraid of the opinions of its own people. Instead of imprisoning critics, the Vietnamese government should be honoring them for their efforts to address the myriad problems facing the country that the government itself has also identified.

Whatever the reason, the government appears despotic to its own people and the world when it says that someone who tries to uphold the rights of others is a threat to the state.

Friends and relatives of ‘dissident’ bloggers outside the courthouse. Photo from Viet Tan

Rupert Colville of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urges a reviewof Vietnam’s Criminal Code:

We urge the Government of Vietnam to review its use of the Criminal Code to imprison people who are critical of its policies, and to review all such cases violating freedom of expression and association in the country

Amnesty International thinks the charges against the activists are baseless:

To misconstrue the activities of the activists as trying to overthrow the government is baseless – they have been imprisoned only for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

Meanwhile, blogger Nguyen Hoang Vi narrates how she was sexually harassed by police authorities while covering the trial of the imprisoned bloggers last December 28:

Today I'm very happy for claiming two victories against you. The first is despite the fact that you did mobilize a lot of people and efforts to stop me from leaving the house. But you failed, I did arrive at the court house where I wanted to go. The second, you used your vile and dirty acts wanting to hurt my soul to instill fear in me, causing me to give up my cause. But I want to let you know that while it is true that violence and your vile acts may cause people to surrender before you, but that only works for the weak. With people like me those acts only strengthen my spirit and my determination. You should convey my words to those who ordered you to carry out these vile acts. And don’t forget to add that your skills are poor and inferior to a woman like me that you had to rely on those dirty tricks.

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