Catholic music teacher sentenced to 11 years for ‘anti-state’ propaganda

The Court convicted Nguyễn Năng Tĩnh, 43, over some messages posted on a Facebook account which he says is not his. The trial was postponed for a month because the Court prohibited his lawyers from copying the case files.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – The People's Court in Nghệ An province, north-central Vietnam, yesterday sentenced a 43-year-old music teacher (pictured) and Catholic activist to 11 years in prison for “anti-state” propaganda.

Nguyễn Năng Tĩnh’s original trial was scheduled for 17 October but was postponed just a few days before following the Court’s decision to prohibit his lawyers from copying his case files.

One of his attorneys, Nguyễn Van Mieng, said that the Court didn’t allow him to copy Tĩnh’s files because they were related to national security and, therefore, confidential.

On the same day, the defendant’s two lawyers submitted a request to postpone the trial until the files could be copied.

The Catholic activist was charged with “making and spreading anti-state information and materials” by uploading posts on Facebook. This was in breach of Article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

“At the trial, Tĩnh said the accusation was not true as this Facebook account didn't belong to him," explained Mieng. However, “The prosecutors stuck to the idea that the Facebook user named Nguyễn Năng Tĩnh and my client Nguyễn Năng Tĩnh are the same person".

The married father of one taught at the Nghệ An College of Art and Culture. He was arrested by security officials in Nghệ An on 29 May during breakfast with his son. The authorities then proceeded with their investigation which ended on 17 September with an indictment.

Tĩnh is a pro-democracy and human rights activist and a member of groups like NoU FC Vinh, Nhóm Bảo Vệ Sự Sống (Life Protection Group), Quy Phát Triển Con Người (Human Development Fund), and Truyền Thông Công Giáo (Catholic media). He is much loved among Catholics.

On 9 October, believers, benefactors, friends from 11 parishes in the Diocese of Vinh as well as Hà Tĩnh province and the capital Hà Nội showed their affection by visiting his father, Nguyễn Ngọc Định.