Vietnam jails second dissident blogger in a week

Posted on August 11, 2012


Blogger Le Thanh Tung

HANOI – A Vietnamese blogger who posted online calls for democracy has been jailed for five years, official media said Saturday, the second web dissident imprisoned this week in an ongoing crackdown on activists.

Le Thanh Tung was convicted of “propaganda against the state” by a Hanoi court over Internet articles for the banned Vietnam Freedom and Democracy Movement, said the ruling Communist Party’s mouthpiece, Nhan Dan newspaper.

The court, which found him guilty Friday of distorting the policies of the state and the party, also handed down a subsequent sentence of four years’ house arrest.

The 44-year-old had called for pluralism, multi-party democracy and constitutional amendments in the online posts, which were published between August 2009 and October 2011, the report said.

Charges of spreading anti-state propaganda and attempting to overthrow the regime are routinely laid against dissidents in authoritarian Vietnam, where the Communist Party forbids political debate.

On Thursday, dissident blogger Dinh Dang Dinh, a 49-year-old former teacher, was sentenced to six years in prison for similar charges in central Dak Nong province.

New York-based Human Rights Watch accused Vietnam of an “intolerance for free speech” in a statement in response to Dinh’s conviction.

The group says at least 11 activists have been convicted and given long prison terms so far this year, with at least a further seven bloggers and activists awaiting trial.

Authorities recently delayed the trial of well-known bloggers Nguyen Van Hai, Phan Thanh Hai and Ta Phong Tan, who are accused of “denigrating the party and state”, after authorities launched a probe into the death of Tan’s mother, who set herself on fire in front of a local authority building late last month.

Activist Jailed Over Reform Calls

Vietnam gives a Bloc 8406 member five years in prison for anti-state propaganda.

Vietnamese authorities on Friday sentenced a writer linked to a banned political group to five years in jail on charges of anti-state propaganda over his articles calling for democratic reforms.

Le Thanh Tung, 44, was sentenced by a Hanoi court under Article 88 of the Criminal Code, which prohibits “conducting propaganda against the state,” charges rights groups say Vietnam routinely uses to silence dissent.

Tung, an ex-soldier and freelance journalist who was detained in December 2011, was affiliated with Bloc 8406, a banned coalition of political groups advocating democratic reform in the one-party Communist state.

Tung’s wife Tran Thi An, who attended the one-hour hearing, said her husband had been accused of defaming the government in his articles that called for reforms.

“They asked him about four of his online writings, which they said called for multiparty change and maligning the government,” she told RFA.

“My husband responded that he did not smear or malign [the government] and that he only wants a multiparty system so that people can have a happy and prosperous life. He denounced the trial,” she said.

She said she other family members were refused entry to the hearing and that authorities did not allow her to speak with Tung.

“The trial lasted only one hour from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. They allowed only me in the courtroom. No one other than plainclothes police was present,” she said.

“At the end of the trial, I went up to have some words with my husband, but a young policewoman pushed me away.”

Fellow freelance journalist Duong Thi Xuan, who follows the case and waited outside the court building during the hearing, said the family was given notice of the hearing the day before.

“I just learned about the trial this morning. The family was notified only yesterday afternoon,” she said.

Bloc 8406

Tung had been detained by Hanoi police 13 times since becoming involved in rights activism four years before his arrest.

Authorities also confiscated his cell phone several times and subjected him to other forms of intimidation.

As a member of Bloc 8406, which is named after its April 8, 2006 manifesto signed by thousands online, Tung had helped workers and land petitioners, according to the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch.

Other members of the banned group have been jailed under charges of endangering state security and conducting propaganda against the state.

Article 88

Tung’s conviction comes a day after a court in Dak Nong province gave outspoken blogger Dinh Dang Dinh six years in jail under Article 88 and as three more bloggers await their trial on the same charges.

The hearing for the three “Free Journalists Club” members—Phan Thanh Hai, Ta Phong Tan, and Nguyen Van Hai, who is also known as Dieu Cay—was expected to take place Tuesday at a court in Ho Chi Minh City, but authorities abruptly postponed it on Monday.

Human Rights Watch has accused Vietnam of mounting a sophisticated and sustained attack on online dissent, including by detaining and intimidating anti-government bloggers, while France-based Reporters Without Borders names the country an “Enemy of the Internet.”

Gwen Ha

Teacher/Blogger Dinh Danh Dinh

Ta Phong Tan (left) – Nguyen Van Hai aka Dieu Cay (middle) – Phan Thanh Hai aka Anh Ba Saigon (right)

Calls are being made by international human rights organizations for the immediate release of 17 young religous activists.

Vietnam jails three land rights campaigners

Vietnamese farmers hold protest signs as they stage a protest over land lost (AFP/File, Cat Barton)

HANOI (July 16, 2012) — A court in Vietnam on Monday jailed three activists who led a peaceful campaign to defend farmers’ land rights in the communist state, to the dismay of champions of freedom of expression.

Nguyen Kim Nhan, 63, was given a prison term of five and a half years while Dinh Van Nhuong, 54, and Do Van Hoa, 46, received four years each at a one-day trial in northern Bac Giang province, the court’s chief judge Vu Ba Chu told AFP.

The three men will also all have to serve time under house arrest after completing their prison terms, but Chu could not immediately say for how long.

The trio were charged under article 88 of the Vietnamese criminal code, which punishes those deemed to have been “conducting propaganda” against the state.

Rights groups say this article is one of many vaguely worded, loosely interpreted national security crimes used to imprison peaceful political and religious dissidents.

The three activists had led a peaceful campaign to expose corruption and wrongdoings committed by local authorities against farmers of Bac Giang province, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.

“Unjustly imprisoning these activists will not quiet demands for respect for rights in resolving disputes about land that are spreading across the Vietnam countryside,” said Phil Robertson, HRW deputy director for Asia.

Land disputes with local authorities are an increasingly contentious issue in authoritarian Vietnam, where all land is owned by the state and usage rights are not always clear or protected.

“Silencing farmers and their proponents will not solve these problems, especially as long as unjust land confiscations and corruption continue throughout Vietnam,” Robertson added.

The trio were all also accused of encouraging farmers to attend a series of 2011 anti-China rallies. The rare protests, initially encouraged by authorities, were eventually broken up by security forces with dozens of people briefly detained.