A court in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi on Thursday rejected an appeal by well-known blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh, sending him back to prison to serve out a five-year sentence for criticizing the government in his online writings.
Vinh, a former police officer also known as Ba Sam, was convicted along with his assistant Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy in March on a charge of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe on the interests of the state” under Article 258 of Vietnam’s penal code.
Thuy was handed a three-year term on the same charge. The two had been held in prison since their arrests in May 2014.
Defense lawyer Tran Vu Hai slammed the court’s decision to uphold the verdict, calling the appeal hearing “undemocratic” in its procedures.
“When the hearing began, the chief judge said that he would listen to all sides, but he rejected all our arguments,” Hai told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
“At times, he even spoke in support of the prosecutors, and finally handed down the same verdict,” he said.
“The hearing was not handled in the way he had promised.”
'Vinh is innocent'
Also speaking to RFA, defense lawyer Tran Quoc Thuan said the indictment and verdict given in Vinh’s original trial had been based on improperly gathered evidence, adding, “Under the new code of criminal procedures of Vietnam, Nguyen Huu Vinh is innocent.”
“But we are subject to Vietnam’s judicial system, and who knows what they stand for?”
“We have strongly argued against the time that [Vinh and Thuy] have already spent in custody,” added Vinh’s wife, Le Thi Minh Ha.
“The authorities have suggested they can always apply for a commutation of their sentences, but my husband is not guilty of any crime, so why should he ask for his sentence to be reduced?”
Paris-based rights group the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organization the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) condemned the rejection of Vinh’s appeal in a Sept. 22 statement, calling on Vietnam to end its “ongoing repression of peaceful dissent.”
“Vietnam’s relentless persecution of government critics using repressive laws and kangaroo courts shows that compliance with the country’s international human rights obligations ranks at the bottom of Hanoi’s priorities,” said FIDH president Dimitris Christopoulos.
Hanoi’s repression must now be met “by stronger international condemnation, not friendly overtures,” VCHR president Ho Van Ai added in the groups’ joint statement.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by KaLynh Ngo. Written in English by Richard Finney.