ucanews.com reporter, HanoiUpdated: March 06, 2018 10:23 AM GMT
Environmental activist Hoang Duc Binh in court on Feb. 6 in Nghe An province. (Photo courtesy of Hoang Nguyen)
Amnesty International is calling on Vietnam to free a Catholic activist who was given a harsh jail sentence for government-critical blogging and his actions to help victims of an environmental disaster.
It asked people around the world to call on the communist government to "immediately and unconditionally release Hoang Duc Binh, a prisoner of conscience, and quash his conviction, which is solely based on his peaceful exercise of his rights to freedom of expression."
Last month Binh, 35, was sentenced to 14 years in prison by a court in Nghe An province for "resisting authorities on official duties" and "abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state."
Amnesty said Binh received the combined maximum prison sentence for both charges.
It said Binh had live-streamed and commented on police brutality during peaceful protests against Taiwanese-owned Formosa Plastics Group, which caused an environmental disaster in 2016 that destroyed livelihoods in central Vietnam.
Binh assisted fishermen in seeking justice by demanding that Formosa pay adequate compensation and clean up the area after admitting its responsibility for discharging toxic waste into the sea.
Amnesty said Vietnam should ensure Binh is protected from torture and other ill-treatment and is allowed frequent and regular access to his family, his lawyer and adequate medical care.
Vietnam should "ensure an immediate end to all forms of harassment, prosecution and punishment of human rights defenders and activists on the basis of their peaceful activism," it said in its "urgent action" statement issued on Feb. 28.
There are around 130 political prisoners in Vietnam, including environmental activists and religious advocates, according to Human Rights Watch.