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REGIONS:

Appeals court upholds Vietnamese blogger's jail term

(RSF/IFEX) - 21 November 2012 - In yet another act of summary justice, a court in Dak Nong province took just 45 minutes today to confirm blogger Dinh Dang Dinh's six-year jail sentence on appeal.

Reporters Without Borders is appalled by the decision and calls on the international community to react quickly.

"We urge Catherine Ashton, the European Union's high representative for foreign affairs, to condemn the latest sentences imposed on Vietnam's cyber-dissidents and bloggers," Reporters Without Borders said. "If this crackdown continues, there will soon be no one left to criticize the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in this country."

During the 21 November hearing, which his wife and daughter were allowed to attend, Dinh insisted that he had "committed no crime" because he had just used his "right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

He also accused the police of pressuring him to sign a confession in February by telling him that he would thereby "secure a pardon and a reduced sentence."

Prior to the hearing, Reporters Without Borders had called on the judicial authorities not to turn the blogger's appeal into the same kind of judicial farce as his original trial in August, when he was given a six-year jail sentence on a charge of anti-government propaganda.

"We urge the court to overturn Dinh's conviction and grant him an unconditional release," Reporters Without Borders had said. "Using Article 88 to convict him was an abuse of the law. And his worrying state of health needs immediate treatment which Vietnam's prisons are unable to provide."

According to the information obtained by Reporters Without Borders, Dinh has been mistreated by prison staff. Concerned about his health, his wife submitted a request for his hospitalization to the prison and police authorities. The request is all the more justified as prison officials often withhold medical treatment from political prisoners if they refuse to confess.

BACKGROUND:

A court in the central province of Dak Nong convicted Dinh on 10 August under Article 88-1 (c) of the criminal code in connection with articles he wrote about corrupt officials and about the bauxite mines operated by Chinese companies in Vietnam. His family could not afford a lawyer and the trial lasted just three hours.

Many other cyber-dissidents and bloggers have received similar treatment. On 11 August, a Hanoi court sentenced the blogger Le Thanh Tung to five years in prison and four years of house arrest under Article 88.

Nguyen Van Hai (who used the blog name of Dieu Cay) was sentenced to 12 years in prison followed by five years of house arrest. Ta Phong Tan, a female blogger, was sentenced to 10 years in prison followed by five years of house arrest. And Phan Thanh Hai (known by the blog name of Anh Ba Saigon), the only one to plead guilty, got 4 years in prison followed by three years of house arrest. Another blogger, Paulus Le Son, is also still detained.

Because of its systematic use of cyber-censorship, Vietnam is on the Reporters Without Borders list of "Enemies of the Internet." It is currently also the world's third biggest prison for netizens (after China and Iran), with at least 19 bloggers and cyber-dissidents currently detained.
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