Student activist and blogger Phan Kim Khanh will go on trial later this month on charges of “propaganda against the state,” a controversial article of the country’s penal code used to target dissidents, his lawyer said on Friday.
"Today I’ve received the decision which says Khanh will go on trial on the morning of October 25. I met him and he seemed to be in good mood but his health is weak," said defense lawyer Ha Huy Son.
Khanh, 24, from Phu Thọ province, was arrested on March 21 and for posting online content that authorities described as fabricated and malicious and aimed at to spreading propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, said Vietnamese state media at the time. Blogger Bui Hieu Vo, 55, of Go Vap district in Ho Chi Minh City was arrested on the same charges on March 17.
Democracy advocate Khanh had administered two blogs called Bao Tham Nhung (Corruption Newspaper) and Tuan Viet Nam (Vietnam Week) since 2015.
He also maintains three Facebook accounts—one for Báo Tham Nhũng and two others called Tuan Bao Viet Nam (Vietnam Weekly) and Dan Chu TV (Democracy TV), as well as two YouTube channels for Viet Bao TV and Vietnam Online.
A senior student of the Faculty of International Studies of Thai Nguyen University at the time of his arrest, Khanh he posted anti-corruption writings against party and government leaders on his two blogs.
Khanh and Vo were arrested on the charge under article 88 of the Vietnam Penal Code, part of the broadly-worded national security section of the 1999 Penal Code that rights groups and Western governments say Vietnam uses to persecute dissidents. They carry lengthy jail sentences or even life imprisonment in some cases.
According to Lawyer Son, Khanh’s family has not been allowed to visit him since his arrest and they don’t know anything about him other than information passed on by Son.
After his arrest, he was taken to Cam Son 1 detention center in Thai Nguyen province.
There are at least 84 prisoners of conscience in Vietnam, including bloggers, labor and land rights activists, political activists, ethnic and religious minorities, and advocates for human rights and social justice who have been convicted after unfair trials or are held in pretrial detention, according to a July 2016 report on Vietnamese political prisoners issued by London-based Amnesty International.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Emily Peyman. Written in English by Paul Eckert.