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Human Rights Watch slams Vietnam for jailing activist



Human Rights Watch has criticised the Vietnamese government and advised it to release all political prisoners.

The rights body also urged other governments to pressure Hanoi.

This followed its decision on Wednesday to imprison a blogger for six years.

The call came after prominent Vietnamese activist and independent journalist Nguyen Lan Thang was sentenced by a Hanoi court in a closed-door trial.

The court said he is to spend two years under house arrest following the prison sentence.

“Vietnam’s authorities systematically trample on human rights by punishing brave bloggers like Nguyen Lan Thang for expressing their views about the government,’’ said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“Concerned governments, including Vietnam’s trade partners in Europe, North America, Australia, and Japan should denounce the suppression of free speech and call for Nguyen Lan Thang’s release.

“Vietnam’s horrendous rights record is especially shameful given that the country is a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council,’’ Robertson said

He added that Hanoi should release Nguyen and “everyone imprisoned for peacefully exercising their basic civil and political rights.’’

Nguyen said he was speaking up for the people of Vietnam and had no desire to go into exile because his fight is at home, according to one of his lawyers, who provided the information a few days before the trial.

“I am Vietnamese, so I live and fight for everything for my country, for my people, as a citizen of Vietnam, not to go to another country to fight,’’ the lawyer said he was told.

Nguyen Ha Luan, one of Nguyen Thang’s defence lawyers, told dpa he could not reveal how Thang pled to the court’s indictment.

This was because it was a closed-door proceeding and Thang’s four lawyers were prohibited from sharing information about the proceedings.

There was a heavy security presence around the Hanoi People’s Court, and two dissidents told dpa that security forces were stationed near their homes to prevent them from leaving.

Only Thang’s wife and his lawyer were allowed to attend the trial.

The court said Thang’s activities broke the law, and his actions should be punished.

Thang was arrested in July 2023 and charged with making, storing, distributing, or disseminating information, documents, and items against the State, under Article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code.

The Vietnamese authorities had accused Thang of posting 12 “anti-state” videos on Facebook and YouTube, as well as storing books that allegedly defame the Communist Party of Vietnam.

According to Amnesty International, Thang was denied family visits and was only permitted to meet his lawyer on February 16, seven months after his initial arrest.

Ming Yu Hah, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for campaigns, said Thang’s peaceful activism and reporting “should be welcome as part of legitimate public debate, but instead, he is facing years in prison.”


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