Nguyen Huu Vinh was arrested in 2014 and charged with having "violated the state's interests." His assistant sentenced to three years in prison. Both say they are innocent. The "Ba Sam" blog published articles and essays against the Hanoi government, getting millions of views.
Hanoi (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Hanoi People's Court has sentenced the famous Catholic dissident and blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh to five years in prison for publishing articles against the state. His assistant Minh Thuy Thuy will serve three years in prison.
According to the court, their blog "distort Party policies and State law, and defame certain individuals". Both defendants have denied the charges.
Nguyen Huu Vinh, 60, is a former police officer and has been linked in the past with the Vietnamese Communist Party. Arrested in May 2014, Huu Vinh and his assistant were charged after six months of unjustified detention for violation of Article 258, which punishes the "abuses of freedom and democracy" and "violating State interests".
Founded in 2007, the blog "Ba Sam" published articles and essays against the Hanoi government, getting millions of views. The blog also hosted a fiercely critical forum of Beijing's "imperialist" policy in the South China Sea.
Around 200 people staged a protest outside the Court as the sentence was being read. The police had to intervene to restore order. Interviewed by Radio Free Asia, one of the defense lawyers he said that "the prosecution provided very weak evidence that has been countered by the defense and the prosecution failed to respond to our arguments." "The most surprising thing about this trial - he added - is that they gave Vinh five years in prison, which is the maximum [for this type of crime]".
For 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 carried out a smear campaign in the Diocese of Vinh against the local bishop and faithful.
Repression also affects individuals, guilty of claiming the right to religious freedom and respect for citizens' civil rights.
According to the international activist movement Human Rights Watch (HRW) currently there are between 150 and 200 bloggers and activists detained in Vietnamese prisons, guilty of having wanted to exercise (and defend) basic human rights.