12 years for Vietnamese blogger

Viet Nam sent out a message today, about the sort of message it did not want to see sent out. Three bloggers accused of spreading “anti-state propaganda” were sentenced to prison terms ranging from four to 12 years. The jailings come just weeks after a crack down on political blogs was announced.

The bloggers are Nguyen Van Hai known as “the peasant’s pipe”, a former policewoman Ta Phong Tan, whose blog is called “Justice and Truth”; and Phan Thanh Hai, known as AnhBaSaiGon.

The three blogers were sentenced after a trial which lasted only a few hours. I have spent longer writing blogs than that.

Our Viet Nam researcher today condemned the sentences, saying that the authorities were trying to make an example of the three in order to silence others.

The bloggers had all been held in lengthy pre-trial detention and their trial had been delayed three times; last time when Ta Phong Tan’s mother, Dang Thi Kim Lieng, died after setting herself on fire outside government buildings in July  to protest the treatment of her daughter.

Several relatives and supporters - including Nguyen Van Hai’s wife, Duong Thi Tan; Ta Phong Tan’s sisters, Ta Khoi Phung and Ta Minh Tu; and human rights defenders Pham Ba Hai and Lu Thi Thu Trang - were arrested to prevent them attending the trial, and some were detained. Most were later released, although the whereabouts of Ta Phong Tan’s two sisters is unknown.

Amnesty has declared the three to be prisoners of conscience and vowed  to keep blogging about their cases.

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