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Judge postpones trial of three bloggers

UN rights group fears trial will further erode freedom of expression

  • Asia Desk, Bangkok
  • Vietnam
  • August 7, 2012
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A court in Ho Chi Minh City today postponed the trial of three Christian bloggers, with officials giving no reason for the delay and saying only that the court would reconvene later this month.

Judge Vu Phi Long of the People’s Court declined to give a reason for the postponement, but a court official said a new date would be set.

“The pending trial will take place this month and the court will inform relatives of the defendants about the date,” the official said.

Local media reported last week that the trial would be postponed at the request of defense lawyers, though at least one defendant has disputed the claim.

The trial of the three defendants – Nguyen Van Hai, Phan Thanh Hai and Marie Ta Phong Tan – was scheduled to resume today, just over a week after Tan’s mother died after self-immolating on July 30 in protest over her daughter’s detention.

Nguyen Van Hai was arrested in 2008 on charges of tax evasion but has remained in detention even though his sentence ended in 2010.

Phan Thanh Hai was arrested in 2010 and Marie Ta Phong Tan was arrested in September last year.

The bloggers face charges under Article 88 of the Criminal Code and could face between seven and 16 years in prison.

Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, told reporters in Geneva the trial raised concerns about freedom of expression in the country.

“We are concerned by what appears to be increasingly limited space for freedom of expression in Vietnam,” she said.

“The trial … will reportedly be closed and witnesses will not be called, raising concerns that the process will not comply with fair trial guarantees."

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