Aug 3 2012 – 3:50pm: Freedom House condemns today’s decision to postpone the August 7 trial for three Vietnamese bloggers. This is the third time the court has delayed the trial, which stems from charges widely considered to be punishment for their criticism of the government. Freedom House calls for the Vietnamese government to drop all charges against the three bloggers and ensure their immediate release.Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay), Phan Thanh Hai (aka Anhbasg) and Ta Phong Tan were indicted under Article 88 of the Penal Code for “producing propaganda against the state” and “writing and disseminating information online” on the subject of human rights. Their blogs challenged Vietnam’s penal code for not guaranteeing the right to freedom of opinion and expression as guaranteed under the constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Vietnam is a signatory. Other online posts by the bloggers criticized the government for committing human rights abuses, including police abuse, land seizures, and street protests and strikes. If convicted, the three could each face up to twenty years in prison.
Anhbasg has been in pre-trial detention since October 2010 and Tan since September 2011. The trial was scheduled for July 30 but delayed following the death of Ta Phong Tan’s 64-year-old mother, Dang Thi Kim Lieng, after she set herself on fire in front of the People’s Committee Headquarters to protest the injustice against her daughter. Blogger Dieu Cay has been in prison since 2008, after arrested on trumped up charges of tax evasion. Shortly before his scheduled release in October 2010, he was charged with criminal defamation. He began a hunger strike in March 2012 to protest his arbitrary arrest and detention and was later hospitalized.
Vietnam is rated Not Free in Freedom House’s three annual surveys: Freedom in the World 2012, Freedom of the Press 2012, and Freedom of the Net 2011 Last week, civil society representatives who attended the Asia-Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF) released a joint statement, in which they called attention to legislation in Vietnam that criminalizes free expression online and access to information.