In what appears to be part of an ongoing crackdown on dissent in Vietnam, four people were given stiff prison sentences Wednesday for anti-government speech.
The Ho Chi Minh City people’s court sentenced blogger Nguyen Ngoc Gia to a four-year prison term with another three years on probation for carrying out "propaganda against the state" according to article 88 of the penal code, RFA’s Vietnamese Service has learned.
Also known as Nguyen Dinh Ngoc, he was arrested in December 2014 at his home in Ho Chi Minh City. He was a regular contributor to Radio Free Asia among other websites.
According to state media, Ngoc posted essays critical of the government and the party on the Internet.
The prosecutor’s report claims he submitted 26 articles to various websites from February to December of 2014. Of those, 14 were published. Prosecutors say they found 22 articles defaming and discrediting party leaders and the state.
Tuoi Tre Online quoted the jury as saying he was only given four years because his father is a 50-year party member while his grandmother is regarded as a hero mother who helped the communist revolution in Vietnam.
Article 88 of Vietnam’s criminal code carries a maximum penalty of 20 years' imprisonment for the ill-defined offence of "anti-state propaganda." Human rights groups that claim Article 88 is used to imprison peaceful activists in the one-party communist nation.
In a separate case, three women were also sentenced to prison terms under Article 88 for waving the flag of the defeated U.S.-backed South Vietnam in front of the U.S. consulate’s office in Ho Chi Minh City.
Ngo Thi Minh Uoc of Tien Giang province was handed a four-year prison sentence, while Nguyen Thi Tri of Binh Duong province and Nguyen Thi Be Hai of Giang province were sentenced to three year prison terms. They all also received two years of probation.
The women admitted they joined a movement called “Vietnam movement for injustice victims' started by Tran Ngoc Anh in Vung Tau in April 2014, according to state media.
The prosecutor’s report said the women are land petitioners who decided to mount the protest because the government ignored their complaints over lost property.
“Be Hai has been seeking justice for her case for more than 20 years, Minh Uoc’s family has been pursuing justice for almost 10 years,” Tran Ngoc Anh told RFA. “Uoc is very upset that her case has not been solved, and her family does not have a place to live anymore.”
Tran Ngoc Anh told RFA that she advised against making the protest because she feared the result.
“When I heard that they would carry the flags I tried to stop them. I told them that they are only injustice victims and shouldn’t go beyond that limit,” she said. “But they said one person came to their houses telling them that if they hold the flags, the government would return them their land.”
The sentences came a week after a court in Hanoi sentenced a prominent blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh to five years in prison on Wednesday for posts on his Ba Sam blog site that were critical of the government.
Reported by RFA's Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.