Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - In a show trial in Ho Chi Minh City court the bloggers Nguyen Van Hai, his son, Nguyen Tri Dung and Maria Ta Phong Tan were summarily sentenced in a total of 25 years in prison for propaganda against the state. The sentence was announced yesterday afternoon. Human rights activists and leaders of battles against corruption, the three were arrested in September. To avoid protests, the police surrounded the court with orders to arrest anyone who showed any dissent.
Nguyen Van Hai, known online as "blogger Dieu Cay", will have to serve 12 years in prison, his son three years. Maria Ta Phong was instead sentenced to 10 years. The Court held that they had infringed Article. 88 of the Penal Code, which punishes "propaganda against the State of Vietnam." The trial has sparked controversy throughout the country and abroad. Lawyers were not allowed to present any evidence in favour of their defendants or cross examine them in court.
Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch Asia, described the trial against the bloggers as a kind of political revenge of the Vietnamese regime, which sees the growth of Internet sites and blogs with a political and pro-human rights background a real threat. Another concern of the Communist Party is the continuing anti-Chinese protests related to the question of the Parachel islands claimed by both countries. In recent days, Nguyen Tan Dung, Prime Minister, ordered a halt to the spread of "subversive" internet sites and blogs at all costs.
The most recent case dates back to last December 27, when the police arrested Hanoi Le Quoc Quan, a Catholic blogger and activist, on charges of tax evasion. According to Le Quoc Queyt his brother, the activist is under indictment for violating Article. 161 of the Criminal Code, which deals with tax evasion, but in reality the authorities wanted to stop his work on behalf of human rights, social justice and religious freedom.