RFA Blogger Formally Indicted in Vietnam for ‘Abuse of Power’

Blogger Truong Duy Nhat speaks in RFA's studios, May 31, 2016.

An RFA blogger held in Vietnam since the beginning of the year has been formally indicted on a charge of taking advantage of his position and powers during the performance of his official duties, state media reported on Tuesday.

Truong Duy Nhat, a weekly contributor to RFA’s Vietnamese Service, was indicted by Vietnam’s Supreme People’s Procuracy in a case involving the sale of public land at an eventual  loss to the state of over VND $13 billion, the Lao Dong newspaper reported on Sept. 17.

Nhat, who had earlier been jailed in Vietnam from 2013 to 2015 for his writings criticizing Vietnam’s government, disappeared in Bangkok in late January amid fears he had been seized by Vietnamese agents, and two months later was revealed to be under arrest in Hanoi.

In July, police investigators charged Nhat with “abusing his position” after failing to find sufficient evidence to convict him on an earlier charge of illegally acquiring property, his wife and a family friend told RFA in an earlier report.

The indictment now handed down charges Nhat, bureau chief of the Dai Doan Ket newspaper in Da Nang city from 1998 to 2011, with using his influence with the Da Nang People’s Committee to buy public land for use as a headquarters for his newspaper, with a local businessman named Phan Van Anh Vu recruited by Nhat to make the purchase.

The land was acquired at less than its proper value, the indictment charges, with a loss to the state at the time of its July 2004 purchase estimated at VND 300 million, rising to over VND 13 billion at the time of the loss’s discovery on April 17, 2018, the Lao Dong paper said.

No date has been set for Nhat’s trial on the charge.

Facebook users jailed

Meanwhile, two Vietnamese Facebook users were sentenced this month for posting politically sensitive content online on different accounts set up under several names, state media reported on Tuesday.

Nguyen Van Cong Em was handed a five-year prison term with five years’ probation on Sept. 17 by a court in southern Vietnam’s Ben Tre province for writings “distorting the policies of the Communist Party of Vietnam” and for urging public protests in Hanoi at the time of the U.S.-North Korea summit held in the capital in February.

Le Van Sinh, a resident of northern Vietnam’s Ninh Binh province, was meanwhile sentenced on Sept. 5 to a five-year term for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State” for online writings deemed to have defamed the ruling party, local government, and provincial leaders, state media said.

Vietnam, with a population of 92 million people, of which 55 million are estimated to be users of Facebook, has been consistently rated “not free” in the areas of internet and press freedom by Freedom House, a U.S.-based watchdog group.

Dissent is not tolerated in the communist nation, and authorities routinely use a set of vague provisions in the penal code to detain dozens of writers and bloggers.

Reported by RFA's Vietnamese Service. Translated by Channhu Hoang. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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