Reporters Without Borders is appalled to learn that a people’s court in the south-central province of Phu Yen sentenced 65-year-old dissident activist Ngo Hao to 15 years in prison on 11 September on a charge of trying to overthrow the government.
Hao’s harsh sentence came just weeks after appeal court in the southern province of Long An commuted the sentences of two bloggers, Nguyen Phuong Uyen and Dinh Nguyen Kha.
“This long jail term has dashed the hope of less repressive policies that was raised by Uyen’s release,” Reporters Without Borders said. “As was the case with Uyen’s and Kha’s appeal, the court did not allow Hao to exercise his right to a fair defence and, except for his son, did not allow his family to attend the hearing.”
Reporters Without Borders added: “We call on the authorities to overturn this conviction and release Hao at once. We also reiterate our call for the release of all the cyber-dissidents currently detained in Vietnam.”
Arrested on 8 February, Hao was accused of writing and circulating false information about the government and defaming its leaders from 2008 to 2012. He was also accused of using peaceful means to promote a revolution similar to the Arab Spring uprisings, and of working with Bloc 8406, a dissident group formed in 2006 that wants multi-party democracy.
His son, Ngo Minh Tam, has voiced concern about his father’s health, which he says is critical. The hearing had to be paused for several minutes because Hao felt very tired but the judges did not agree to the request for an adjournment.
Hao’s wife, Nguyen Thi Kim Lan, yesterday published an open letter to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon asking the international community to help obtain her husband’s release.
Ranked 172nd out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, Vietnam has been criticized by the international community several times in recent months for its treatment of bloggers and dissidents.
The European Union has also expressed its concern about freedom of expression in Vietnam, most recently at a meeting held in Hanoi on 11 September under a cooperation and partnership accord that the EU and Vietnam concluded in June 2012. During this meeting, the EU’s representatives relayed the concerns expressed by Reporters Without Borders.
A Franco-Vietnamese association is organizing a human rights march in France ahead of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s visit at the end of September. To draw attention to the crackdown on news providers and human rights defenders in Vietnam, they will begin their march in Nantes on 16 September and plan to reach Paris on 24 September.
You too can demand the release of the bloggers detained in Vietnam by signing this Reporters Without Borders petition.