06/26/2014, 00.00
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Vietnam upholds 2-year jail term against blogger

The 50 year-old Duy Nhat Truong was charged with "abusing democratic freedoms." He had criticized the Prime Minister and the leader of the Communist Party. Court tried to block the activist and his lawyer defensive pleading. Hanoi against internal dissidence.

Hanoi (AsiaNews/Agencies) - A court in central Vietnam has upheld a two-year jail sentence against a well-known dissident blogger for posting online criticism of the communist government. Truong Duy Nhat was convicted of "abusing democratic freedoms" to infringe upon the interests of the state in March. Lawyer Tran Vu Hai said Nhat maintained his innocence during the appeal hearing in central Danang City that lasted nearly two hours Thursday. "We stressed that the 12 articles did not infringe upon the interests of the state, but instead defended the interests of the state," Hai told The AP by telephone.

Hai said the judges tried to stop him and his client from speaking when they went into details of the 12 articles that were used to prosecute Nhat. The 50-year-old was arrested in May last year, a month after posting an article that called for the resignation of Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, accusing them of being responsible for what he described as the country's "political chaos," slumping economy and their failure to curb rampant corruption.

An active voice within the national media landscape since 2011, he is famous for having given birth to a popular blog titled "A Different Viewpoint." His writings offer a different view than the official press, controlled by the authorities and he is accused of fomenting "debates marked by hatred." Since his arrest his blog has been blocked by authorities.

In April 2013, he published an article calling on the Vietnamese leadership to resign en masse, because "the time has come for the appointment of a new prime minister and a new party secretary." He called for the radical change to help solve the nation's economic and political crisis, the result of years of bad governance.

For the past 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 conducted a smear campaign in the Diocese of Vinh targeting the local bishop and faithful. The government's crackdown has also touched people whose only guilt is that of claiming the right to religious freedom and respect for citizens' civil rights. In 2013 alone, Vietnamese authorities arrested dozens of activists for crimes "against the state," based on a rule that human rights groups have branded as too "generic" and "vague".



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