Another Vietnamese blogger has been jailed for criticizing the communist state. The Vietnamese government has accused Truong Duy Nhat of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe the interests of the state” under the country’s controversial new article 258.
Nhat, 50, received a two-year sentence after his lawyer admitted during a half-day trial in Danang, on the central coast, that his client had posted 12 articles online. However, the defense argued that this was not a crime.
“I merely exercised my rights to freedom of speech,” Nhat was quoted as saying by his lawyer Tran Vu Hai. “Actually, I did defend the state and its interests.”
He had been braced for a prison term of up to seven years.
Nhat was arrested in May last year after posting an article calling for the resignation of Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, accusing them of failing to fight corruption resulting in political chaos and a slumping economy.
Dung has been linked to a series of spectacular scandals, including the implosion of Vinashin, the national shipbuilding company and once the pride of Vietnam’s state-owned enterprises, which buckled under $4 billion in debt.
Vietnam – a communist one-party state in the north since 1954 and in the south since annexation in 1975 – bans privately owned media outlets, including newspapers, magazines, online publications, television and radio.
Political activists, bloggers, journalists, lawyers, Buddhist and Christian clergy have felt the wrath of the latest crackdown, which accompanied increased criticism of the government, and in particular, Dung’s handling of an economy that went against the regional trend and brought leading state-run enterprises to their knees.
In July, Dung and 46 officials escaped censure in the country’s first-ever confidence vote amid allegations of cronyism and corruption after a scathing review of the government by the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV).
New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) says 61 Vietnamese dissidents and activists were convicted and jailed last year, up from about 40 similar convictions for the year earlier.
HRW has urged the government to free Nhat.
“Truong Duy Nhat’s trial is part of the Vietnamese government’s futile effort to silence the increasingly effervescent community of Vietnamese bloggers,” Brad Adams, HRW’s Asia director said in a statement.
“Instead of creating another political prisoner, the government should release Truong Duy Nhat and all others who are jailed merely for disagreeing with the government and the party.”
Last year, Dinh Nhat Uy became the first blogger sentenced under article 258 and was handed a suspended 15 month prison sentence.
A request by foreign journalists to attend the trial was rejected by the authorities.
Luke Hunt can be followed on Twitter @lukeanthonyhunt