Blogger sentenced to 2 years for criticizing officials

(VNRN) – A Vietnamese court on Mar. 4 sentenced a prominent blogger to two years in jail for posting online content critical of government and Communist Party officials.

Truong Duy Nhat (Trương Duy Nhất), a former journalist for state media, was convicted in Da Nang of “abusing the rights of freedom.” At the trial, which was closed to the public, Nhat told the judges that he had spoken the truth and did not feel intimidated by the imprisonment.

“There are imprisonments that make people feel remorseful or ashamed, but in my case I am proud,” Nhat is quoted by his lawyer as saying.

The indictment singles out 12 particular articles from Nhat’s blog “Another Point of View,” dating from 2009 through 2013, in which Nhat criticized the performances of top government and Party officials, including the Secretary-General and the Prime Minister.

At a half-day hearing, the court ruled the articles were not true and portrayed the country and its leaders in a negative light.

Nhat was convicted of violating Article 258 of the Vietnamese Penal Code, an ambiguous provision which makes it a crime to “abuse the rights to freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of belief, religion, assembly, association and other democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens.”

In late 2013, a group of Vietnamese bloggers launched a “No 258″ campaign calling attention to the law’s vagueness and danger of arbitrarily using it to suppress legitimate free speech. Copies of the group’s petition were hand delivered to many diplomatic missions in Hanoi and subsequently several bloggers who did so were questioned by the police.

Nhat’s lawyer said he intends to appeal the verdict.

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