Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Three Vietnamese activists will go on trial today on charges of "inciting public disorder" which activist groups say is a "politically motivated" charge and part of Hanoi's plan to gag dissent.
The defendants are the blogger Bui Thi Minh Hang - in the photo, famous for her criticism of Chinese "imperialism" in the Asia-Pacific region - and Nguyen Thi Thuy Quyn, together with the follower of the Buddhist sect Hao Hao Nguyen Van Minh. They will be tried in a people's court in the southern province of Dong Thap and face up to seven years in prison if found guilty.
The authorities arrested the trio in February 2014, on charges of causing public unrest by creating "a serious obstruction to traffic"; pro human rights movements speak instead of "prefabricated" accusations, with the sole purpose of targeting the defendants for their socio-political activism.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), said that "the Vietnamese government is now resorting to bogus traffic offenses to criminally prosecute activists".
This is echoed by Karim Lahidji, president of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), according to whom "the harassment, arbitrary arrest, and unjust prosecution [of the three] follow an all-too-familiar script that illustrates Vietnam's failure to comply with its international human rights obligations".
For the past several years, Vietnam has seen a harsh campaign by the government against dissidents, bloggers, religious leaders (including Buddhists), Catholic activists or entire communities. Last year for example, media and government conducted a smear campaign in the Diocese of Vinh targeting the local bishop and faithful.
The government's crackdown has also touched people whose only guilt is that of claiming the right to religious freedom and respect for citizens' civil rights.
In 2013 alone, Vietnamese authorities arrested dozens of activists for crimes "against the state," based on a rule that human rights groups have branded as too "generic" and "vague".