Blogger Faces New Charges

Vietnam's top blogger is not out of jail even though his prison term has ended.
2010-10-21
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Dieu Cay in an undated photo.
Dieu Cay in an undated photo.
RFA

Vietnam's popular blogger Nguyen Van Hai has not been released even though his two-and-a-half year term of imprisonment for alleged tax evasion has ended.

According to his former wife Duong Thi Tan, police said he will now be slapped with fresh charges of campaigning against the one-party communist state.

Relatives of Nguyen, better known by his pen name Dieu Cay, were told he had to stay in prison when they went to take him home on Oct. 20. His sentence had ended a day earlier.

Duong said that police raided her home before dawn on Wednesday, beat her, and informed her neighbors that Nguyen Van Hai was being charged with spreading propaganda against the state.

"My (ex) husband has been in prison for over two years now. How could he commit any new crime?" she asked.

"Police stormed into my house and robbed me of all my assets, even the phone was taken away. They caught me, beat me, and took me to their police station, witnessed by many people."

Police tell neighbors of new charges

"They summoned the elderly citizens in the neighborhood and read a report of commencing criminal proceedings that said Hai committed the crime of spreading propaganda against the state.

"I asked them to give me the report but they didn't. That proved they had no legitimate reasons for their actions."

Dung, the son of Nguyen and Duong, said that he went to Xuan Loc prison northeast of Ho Chi Minh City to fetch his father but was unable to see him.

A prison warden said Hai had been driven home in a police vehicle, but Dung decided to remain outside the prison for his father, who he believed was still inside the facility.

"I cannot go home until I see my father coming out from that gate, though my younger sister is staying home now and she shuts the door because there are several policemen in plainclothes standing in the front," he said.

His younger sister, Hoang Yen, said she knew the men were from the police because she believed they had stalked her mother and other members of the family for a long time.

"Illegal to keep Nguyen in jail"

A Vietnamese lawyer activist in Hanoi, Cu Huy Ha Vu, son of a famous Vietnamese poet and late minister of culture, said it was illegal for the authorities to hold Nguyen in prison, as his sentence had expired.

Cu said the government should have released Nguyen before initiating another investigation or prosecution.

Another Vietnamese lawyer, speaking from Ho Chi Minh City, said that Vietnamese law allows the government to charge someone for offences such as terrorism even if they were committed 30 months ago.

Hai was convicted for failing to pay 10 years of back taxes for rental of part of his house, although some rights groups believe he was thrown in jail for blogging about territorial disputes between China and Vietnam, and for his criticism of the Vietnamese government for allegedly kowtowing to its northern neighbor.

This week, another Vietnamese blogger, Phan Thanh Hai, who penned as "Anh Ba Saigon" (Saigon Brother Number Three), was held by police following a raid on his family home in Ho Chi Minh City.

His blog contained posts and links to writings that touched on what were considered sensitive topics in Vietnam, including a maritime sovereignty dispute with China as well as cases of prominent dissidents.

The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch has accused Vietnam of mounting a sophisticated and sustained attack on online dissent that includes detaining and intimidating anti-government bloggers.

Reported by Mac Lam for RFA's Vietnamese service. Translations by Viet Long. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.

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