Vietnam upholds long blogger jail terms
HANOI, Vietnam - Two Vietnamese dissident bloggers on Friday, December 28, lost their appeals against long prison sentences for "anti-state propaganda", a lawyer said, despite international calls for their release.
A court in southern Ho Chi Minh City upheld the convictions of Nguyen Van Hai, alias Dieu Cay, and former policewoman Ta Phong Tan, confirming their respective jail terms of 12 and 10 years.
"They did not listen to us or the defendants," Hai's lawyer Ha Huy Son told AFP.
A third blogger Phan Thanh Hai, who had pleaded guilty to the charges at their trial in September, saw his four-year prison term reduced by one year on appeal, Son said.
The convictions relate to political articles the bloggers posted on the banned Vietnamese website "Free Journalists Club" as well as their own blogs, which criticised corruption, injustice and Hanoi's foreign policy.
Rights campaigners say the bloggers are victims of the communist government's efforts to muzzle dissent.
Hai's case has even been raised by US President Barack Obama, who said in May this year "we must not forget (journalists) like blogger Dieu Cay, whose 2008 arrest coincided with a mass crackdown on citizen journalism in Vietnam".
Worldwide attention grew after Tan's mother Dang Thi Kim Lieng died in July after setting herself ablaze ahead of her daughter's trial.
When listening to the verdict, Tan shouted in objection and was immediately escorted out of the court room, according to her lawyer Nguyen Thanh Luong.
The bloggers were convicted of 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" used to prosecute dissidents.
The convictions show "how the government's control continues to be built on the systematic suppression of core civil and political rights", Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said on Friday.
Such long sentences are "intended to deepen a climate of intimidation and fear", he added.
Vietnam bans private media and all newspapers and television channels are state-run.
Reporters Without Borders ranked Vietnam 172 out of 179 countries in its 2011-2012 press freedom index and identified the authoritarian state as an "Enemy of the Internet" because of systematic use of cyber-censorship.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung ordered authorities to crack down anew on anyone using the Internet to "defame and spread propaganda against the party and state". - Rappler.com