A Vietnamese dissident blogger was beaten by police and violently herded into a truck on Wednesday after an appeals court upheld his six-year jail term for anti-state propaganda, his wife said.
Police beat Dinh Dang Dinh as he was led away from the courtroom to the prison truck after the hearing, Dang Thi Dinh said, criticizing the verdict as unfair.
“They opened only one of the doors of the truck’s double doors and pushed my husband through it. They even beat his head with clubs,” she told RFA’s Vietnamese service.
“I yelled aloud, ‘What kind of justice is this? … What kind of fairness and transparency is there here?’”
She was not allowed to talk to her husband and police restrained her and their two daughters as he was led away, she said.
“Police held me and my children as we tried to reach him,” she said. “There were hundreds of them in all kind of uniforms. They held me tight and I couldn’t struggle.”
It was not immediately clear why the police had beat Dinh, who had been sentenced in August for “conducting propaganda against the state,” a charge rights groups have said the one-party communist state routinely uses to silence dissent.
A former high school chemistry teacher and army officer, Dinh, 49, had published online articles on government corruption and social and environmental issues, including problems in the education system and bauxite mining.
The appeals court in Dak Nong province on Wednesday announced the rejection of his appeal in a hearing that lasted less than an hour, his wife said.
“The court session began at 7:45 a.m. and ended at 8:30 a.m. They upheld the verdict, saying that my husband carried out propaganda against the state. It’s the same charge as in the lower court,” she said.
She added that she believed her husband had done no wrong and that they would continue to appeal his sentence.
Dinh’s lawyer, Nguyen Thanh Luong, said that at the hearing prosecutors had ignored arguments given in Dinh’s defense.
“I raised issues based on laws and the prosecutor didn’t discuss those, but instead only confirmed that Dinh harbored actions and thoughts [against the state], and they just came to conclusion that he had violated the law,” he said.
Luong said that the laws applied against Dinh were vague and could easily be used against people.
“The way they employ those laws makes people confused. The meaning of the law is too general, there’s nothing concrete.”
Dinh, who has been held since Oct. 2011, was sentenced under Article 88 of the Criminal Code, a provision rights groups say has been used in recent years to silence a slew of bloggers and activists who use the Internet to promote free expression.
New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), which has accused Vietnam of mounting a campaign against online dissent, said the case against Dinh raises “fundamental concerns” about Vietnam's intentions towards free expression over the Internet.
“Dinh Dang Dinh is like another toppling domino in Vietnam’s systematic campaign to silence its internal critics by locking them away behind bars for long prison terms,” the group’s Asia deputy director Phil Robertson said.
Dinh had faced police harassment because of his online activities and had exposed the police treatment online, according to HRW.
Dinh, whose articles had been published on sites including Dan Luan and Bauxite Vietnam, had also signed a controversial petition against a bauxite-mining project granted to a Chinese developer in Dak Nong.
Robertson said Dinh had been sentenced because “he dared to use the Internet to express opinions that the government doesn’t want its people to hear.”
“He should have never been arrested in the first place because all he did was exercise his basic right to freedom of expression.”
According to Human Rights Watch, at least 10 bloggers and activists have been convicted under the article in this year and at least seven others have been charged and are awaiting trial.
Reported by Gia Minh for RFA’s Vietnamese service. Translated by Viet Long. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.