After prison, Nguyễn Quốc Đức Vượng will be on three-year probation. For experts, this is the harshest verdict for online content offences. It is a sign of growing repression by the communist authorities. Recently, at least a dozen people have ended up in jail for their social media use.
Hanoi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A Vietnamese court sentenced pro-democracy advocate Nguyễn Quốc Đức Vượng to eight years in prison, plus three years of probation.
The court found the activist, arrested on 23 September last year, guilty of "criticising" the government and the communist regime on Facebook.
For Nguyễn’s lawyer, the sentence is too severe. Experts say that this is the toughest verdict ever by a court so far for an offence associated with social media content; however, it reflects growing repression by the country’s authorities.
After a three-hour trial, Nguyen was found guilty of “making, storing, distributing, or disseminating information, documents, and items against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” in violation of Art 117 of Vietnam’s Penal Code.
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), during a livestream video, Nguyễn said: “I am not certain that the entire state apparatus is corrupt, but I am 100 percent certain that those who have been involved in corruption are Communist Party members. Vietnam only allows one single party and does not allow any competing opposition.”
On his account, which had more than 10,000 followers, he discussed sensitive issues like land seizures and political prisoners. He also expressed support for Hong Kong protesters opposed to the extradition bill to China law and for government change in Venezuela.
His defence attorney, Nguyễn Văn Miếng, noted that the court did not explain which of the 366 posts or 98 videos were at fault.
Official media, including Vietnam News, claimed the activist admitted to all the charges and that he did not oppose the prosecution.
Radio Free Asia (RFA) recently estimated that at least a dozen activists or ordinary people broke the law by posting on social media.
Vietnam has a population of 92 million, with 55 million using Facebook. However, it is not deemed free because of systematic internet censorship and suppression of free thought in the press.
Dissent is not tolerated by the country’s one-party Communist regime. The authorities routinely use the Penal Code to arrest and convict tens, if not hundreds of bloggers, writers, journalists, environmentalists and activists.