Jailed Blogger Blasts Government

A prominent Vietnamese blogger's critical note to the authorities finds its way out of prison.
2013-02-06
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Nguyen Van Hai (pen name Dieu Cay) in an undated photo taken before his 2008 detention.
RFA

In a petition that has been smuggled out of prison, Vietnam's most prominent jailed blogger has blasted the communist authorities for imposing a harsh sentence on him and questioned the relevance of the law under which he was punished.

Nguyen Van Hai, a founding member of the banned Free Journalists Club website, also said in the petition that he was hopeful that Article 88 of the Penal Code, which has been used by the one-party Communist government to muzzle dissent, will be abolished before he leaves prison.

A copy of Hai's petition appealing his harsh 12-year prison sentence in September last year was provided to RFA's Vietnamese Service by Vietnamese-American pro-democracy activist Nguyen Quoc Quan, who was freed last week by Hanoi after being jailed for nine months on subversion charges.

Hai, who is popularly known by his pen name Dieu Cay, gave the petition to Quan while they were in the same prison block for two weeks last year.

Quan, worried that prison guards would seize the petition, gave it to another source to smuggle it out. It was handed to Quan on his release last week.

The prison officials had refused to submit Hai's critical appeal petition to the authorities and he had to water it down, Quan said.

"The wording of that petition is very strong and that was why the prison authorities did not want to accept it," Quan told RFA in an interview following his return home to California.

"They told him to tone it down but he argued with them. They said that if he did not rewrite his petition, they would not take it [to the higher authorities]. That was why he rewrote his petition," Quan said. "I was moved when I read it."

'Failure to build democracy'

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The original appeal petition by Nguyen Van Hai.

Hai said in the petition that his trial "is an obvious evidence of the failure of building a democracy in Vietnam."

"The setting up of the Free Journalists Club is an effort to exercise the freedom of the press, and the freedom of expression, association and gathering, and does not violate the law," according to the petition.

Hai wrote the petition a day after he was sentenced on Sept. 24 for political blogging that included hundreds of articles posted online. His appeal was eventually turned down in December last year.

Hai, who had been imprisoned on other charges since 2008, was among several detained journalists mentioned by U.S. President Barack Obama in a speech on World Press Freedom Day last May.

Obama said the blogger’s first arrest in 2008 had “coincided with a mass crackdown on citizen journalism in Vietnam.”

Hai said in the petition that Article 88, under which he was convicted for “conducting propaganda” against the state, "will see its demise before he is free."

"I think that is the main message [in the petition], Quan said, adding that Hai had wanted his original petition to be publicized to the outside world so that the Vietnamese authorities could be pressured to embrace political reforms.

Hai wanted Article 88 and several other laws used by the Vietnamese government to silence dissent to be "eliminated" from the Penal Code, Quan said.

Hai's articles before his arrest had criticized human rights abuses, corruption, and foreign policy in Vietnam.

Vietnamese authorities have jailed dozens of political dissidents since launching a crackdown on freedom of expression at the end of 2009, many of them charged with “aiming to overthrow the government.”

Reported by RFA's Vietnamese Service. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.