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EU and US condemn blogger verdict

Vietnam urged to honor international law and release them

  • Asia Desk, Bangkok
  • Vietnam
  • September 25, 2012
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Officials from the European Union and US have condemned yesterday’s sentencing of three Christian bloggers as excessive and unjust.

Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, said in a statement today that she had “serious concerns” over the trial and that the “sentences in this case appear to be particularly severe.”

She added: “The EU recalls the fundamental right of all persons to hold and freely express their opinions in a peaceful manner.”

Nguyen Van Hai and Marie Ta Phong Tan received sentences of 12 years and 10 years, respectively, with five additional years of house arrest, while Phan Than Hai received a four-year sentence and three years of house arrest.

The bloggers were found guilty of spreading “propaganda against the state.”

Ashton urged Vietnam to “respect its international obligations and to release the convicted bloggers immediately.”

The US State Department issued a statement yesterday also condemning the verdict.

“We are deeply troubled by the convictions of three Vietnamese bloggers who appear to have done nothing more than exercise their right to freedom of expression,” said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland in the statement.

“These convictions are the latest in a series of moves by Vietnamese authorities to restrict freedom of expression. The Vietnamese government should release these three bloggers, all prisoners of conscience, and adhere to its international obligations immediately,” she added in the statement.

Nuland further noted that a free media was essential to an open and just society, and that protection of human rights “is a necessary step in developing a closer, more mature bilateral relationship.”

During the trial yesterday, which lasted less than six hours, Nguyen Van Hai was quoted by the Agence France Presse (AFP) news agency as saying, “I just feel frustrated by injustice, corruption, dictatorship which does not represent the state but some individuals.”

He added: “According to Vietnamese laws, citizens have the right to freedom of speech and it is in accordance with international treaties to which Vietnam is party,” AFP quoted him as saying before his microphone was turned off.

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