Vietnam jails bloggers for spreading 'anti-government propaganda'


Ta Phong Tan and Nguyen Van Hai. From the Human Rights Watch website.

Vietnam has sentenced three bloggers to between four and 12 years in jail for spreading “anti-government propaganda,” the Bangkok Post reported.

After a trial that lasted just hours, Nguyen Van Hai, Ta Phong Tan and Phan Thanh Hai were jailed for “abusing the popularity of the internet to post articles which undermined and blackened (Vietnam's) leaders, criticised the (Communist) party (and) destroyed people's trust in the state," Court President Nguyen Phi Long said.

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The trial was held in Ho Chi Minh City, and the trio are all founding members of the “Free Journalists Club” – a group of citizens who publish their views on rights abuses, corruption and foreign policy on the internet.

Nguyen Van Hai, alias Dieu Cay (“Tobacco Pipe”), received the heftiest sentence of 12 years, while Ta Phong Tan, who was once a policewoman, was given 10 years, the Post reported.

The only defendant to plead guilty, Phan Thanh Hai, received four years. The Associated Press reported that her mother died after setting herself on fire to protest against her daughter’s detention.

The US embassy in Hanoi criticized the sentences, and called on the Vietnamese government to free the bloggers. It said in a statement:

"We are deeply concerned by reports that the Ho Chi Minh City People's Court convicted and sentenced blogger Dieu Cay to 12 years in prison for peacefully expressing his political views."

The trial has been condemned by international rights groups, while activists say authorities are instensifying their crackdown against bloggers.