x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Vietnam jails 3 bloggers over 'propaganda' posts

Writers told of corruption and rights abuses.

HANOI // A Vietnamese court issued jail sentences ranging from four to 12 years yesterday to three bloggers who wrote about human-rights abuses, corruption and foreign policy.

The cases are particularly high-profile examples of the Communist government's attempts to stifle challenges to its authority on the internet, which has emerged as a major conduit for dissent.

Barack Obama, the United States president, has mentioned one of the defendants, and the mother of another died after setting herself on fire to protest against her daughter's arrest.

The defendants, two men and one woman, were founding members of the "Free Journalists' Club", a group of citizen journalists who posted their work on the internet. They were found guilty of spreading "propaganda against the state".

Nguyen Van Hai, who has written under the pen name Dieu Cay or "Tobacco Pipe", got 12 years, Ta Phong Tan received 10 years and Phan Thanh Hai got four years, according to defence lawyer Ha Huy Son.

The trial in Ho Chi Minh City lasted less than six hours. The country regularly convicts dissidents, but sentences have generally been about five years.

The US, which is seeking closer economic ties with Vietnam but is also pressing it on human rights, quickly criticised the sentences.

"The government's treatment of Dieu Cay appears to be inconsistent with Vietnam's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights relating to freedom of expression and due process," it said.

Nguyen Van Hai criticised the government for its handling of tensions with China over disputed islands in the South China Sea.

Tan, a former police officer, wrote a blog called "Justice and Truth" that criticised police abuse of power. Her mother set herself on fire in protest over the case in late July.