Three bloggers were jailed after a court in the South of Vietnam find them guilty of the charges for “anti-state propaganda”, including 1 whose case has been raised by US President Barack Obama, at a short hearing.
The trial lasted just a few hours. The high-profile blogger Nguyen Van Hai, alias Dieu Cay, was sentenced to 12 years in prison, while Ta Phong Tan, a policewoman-turned-dissident whose mother self-immolated to protest her detention, was given 10 years and led from court screaming.
According to Nguyen Phi Long, President of the court in Ho Chi Minh City, “Their crimes were especially serious with clear intention against the state.”
Nguyen Phi Long added that the pair had “caused disorder” in the court and so were not allowed to make closing statements. “They must be seriously punished.”
The only one of the trio to plead guilty was Phan Thanh Hai, and was handed a 4 year term after promising “not to commit the crime again and to have no further contact with anti-state people,” he swore under oath to the court.
Ta Phong Tan, whose mother passed away after setting herself on fire in front of a local authority building in July in a desperate condemnation of the charges against her daughter, was led out of the court crying.
The 43-year-old Ta Phong Tan, who was wearing a red t-shirt and looked calm but unhappy during proceedings, broke down after the verdict and was heard shouting “objection!” as she was escorted to a waiting car and driven away.
The US Embassy in Hanoi said in a statement released after the hearing that it was “deeply concerned” by the verdict, calling upon Vietnam to release the bloggers.
They were charged with conducting propaganda against the one-party communist state under Article 88 of the criminal code, which rights groups say is one of many “vaguely defined articles” regularly used to prosecute dissidents.
The case relates to political articles on banned Vietnamese website “Free Journalists Club” as well as their postings on their own blogs, denouncing corruption and injustice and criticising Hanoi’s foreign policy.
All of the defendants will also have to serve between three and five years under house arrest after they complete their prison sentences.