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Two bloggers sentenced to lengthy jail terms in Vietnam

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders deplores the five-year jail sentence that a Hanoi people's court handed down to blogger Le Thanh Tung at the end of a summary one-hour trial on 11 August 2012, just three days after fellow blogger Dinh Dang Dinh was given a six-year sentence.

Both bloggers were convicted of anti-government propaganda under article 88 of the criminal code. Tung was given an additional four years of house arrest after completing the jail term. Of his relatives and friends, only his wife, Tran Thi An, was allowed to attend the trial.

A former military officer, Tung was arrested on 1 December 2011. He had been advocating democracy, political liberalism and a multiparty system in articles posted online since 2007. He had also been a member of the Bloc 8406 opposition movement since its creation in 2006.

He was subjected to public humiliation on 25 April 2008, when he was brought before a crowd mustered by the authorities and insulted for various "crimes", including sending wreaths to the dissident Hoang Minh Chinh's February 2008 funeral on behalf of pro-democracy groups based abroad.

Previously, on 8 August, fellow blogger Dinh Dang Dinh was convicted under article 88-1 (c) of the criminal code at the end of a three-hour trial in which he pleaded not guilty and defended himself because his family could not afford a lawyer. He was accused of writing and posting articles critical of the Communist Party, the government and Ho Chi Minh between late 2007 and October 2011, when he was arrested.

According to the information obtained by Reporters Without Borders, Dinh was a military officer who left the armed forces in 1988 after a disagreement over the ruling Communist Party's policies. The authorities turned their sights on him after he launched a petition against a bauxite mining project in Dak Nong in 2009. In his blogs, he advocated democracy and pluralism.

"The same charges keep on being brought against Vietnam's bloggers," Reporters Without Borders said. "Article 88 of the criminal code has again been used to silence criticism of the government. The summary nature of these proceedings does not bode well for other bloggers currently being tried."

The trial of three other bloggers - Ta Phong Tan, Phan Thanh Hai (known by the blog name of Anhbasaigon) and Nguyen Van Hai (known by the blog name of Dieu Cay) - that was supposed to begin in Ho Chi Minh City on 7 August was postponed at the last moment. No date has so far been set.

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

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