Ho Chi Minh City
(AsiaNews) - A court in Ho Chi Minh City sentenced three Vietnamese bloggers, Nguyễn
Văn Hải (Blogger Điếu Cày), Maria Tạ
Phong Tần and Phan Thanh hải (blogger anh Ba Sài Gòn), to 4 to 12 years in
prison, plus probation, for "propaganda against the Socialist Republic of
On a cold and
rainy morning, police arrested and took away relatives of the accused who tried
to attend the trial. Some 400 officers from the police and the secret services patrolled
the streets leading to the courthouse (pictured).
The three were
arrested and convicted on baseless charges. In fact, if the law has been
violated, it is by the authorities.
like Human Rights Watch slammed the court decision.
"We are deeply
troubled by the convictions of three Vietnamese bloggers who appear to have
done nothing more than exercise their right to freedom of expression,"
said State department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.
On Sunday, the
Redemptorists heeded a request by the bloggers' relatives for a Mass to pray
for them and 17 other Catholics unfairly jailed. Some 2,000 people attended the
service, including non-Catholics.
"It was certain
that the three faced heavy prison sentences," said Fr Joseph, "that they would 'lose'
in the trial; however, their work was meaningful. They are brave patriots in a
society of unjust behaviours. We prayed especially for new Catholic bloggers."
are based on Article 88 of the Criminal Code, an infamous legal tool used to
arrest and incriminate people arbitrarily.
trouble, Nguyễn Văn Hải was given 12 years in prison, and five years of
probation. Maria Tạ Phong Tần, who was baptised by the Redemptorists in 2009,
received a nine-year sentenced, plus five years probation. Phan Thanh Hải was given four years in prison
and three on probation.
For some, this
is a harsh and unfair sentence. It allows us to understand the direction the
government is taking.
Watch called on the government to release the prisoners immediately. The government needs to understand the nature
of social issues and phenomena and should listen to people's opinions, even their
criticism. If the bloggers are gagged, or imprisoned, the country's current
problems and difficulties cannot be solved.