May 30, 2012
Vietnam has upheld the jail sentences of two human rights activists, throwing out an appeal against their conviction for spreading anti-government propaganda, a judicial source said Wednesday.
After a half-day hearing, "the prison sentences of Ho Thi Bich Khuong and Nguyen Trung Ton were upheld on appeal this morning," an official at the court in central Nghe An province told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Female blogger Khuong, 44, was sentenced in December last year to five years in prison followed by three years house arrest, while activist and pastor Ton, 40, was given two years in jail and two more under house arrest.
Rights groups say the ruling is part of a wider muzzling of dissent by Vietnam’s authoritarian communist party, which launched a crackdown on free expression in late 2009.
The party tightly controls the press and cracks down strongly on any signs of dissent, increasingly over the Internet.
Khuong and Ton were arrested on November 15 for "collecting documents and writing articles which tarnished the reputation of the Communist Party and the Socialist regime," state media said at the time.
Khuong was also accused of giving interviews to foreign radio stations against the state, posting them on the Internet and of belonging to several human rights groups affiliated with so-called "reactionary" people.
She had previously been sentenced in April 2008 to two years in jail for "abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State" and also spent six months in prison in 2005 for "disrupting public order".
Rights groups had called upon the court to free Khuong, who has alleged she has been beaten and tortured in prison.
"For the third time in seven years, Ho Thi Bich Khuong is in prison for exercising the right to voice her views," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
"The systematic application of article 88 to arbitrarily punish bloggers and critics shows that Vietnam’s disrespect for freedom of expression continues unabated," he added.
Vietnam, classed an "enemy of the Internet" by Reporters Without Borders, is drafting a new decree on online content in a bid to clamp down on the country’s increasingly bold blogosphere.
The 60-article draft decree would force bloggers to post real names and contact details, make news websites obtain government approval to publish, and compel site administrators to report any banned online activity.
Source: Agence France-Presse