A screenshot of Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong and his Facebook page. (Photo courtesy of RFA)
Vietnam has jailed an outspoken Catholic blogger, known for commenting on social issues, for allegedly trying to undermine the state.
The People’s Court in Lam Dong province on July 7 sentenced Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong, 29, to eight years in jail and three years’ probation for "making, hoarding and disseminating anti-state propaganda."
The blogger from Don Duong district was arrested in September last year.
According to a four-page indictment, Vuong had posted and spread 98 video clips and 366 articles against the government on Facebook.
He was also accused of taking part in illegal protests in in Ho Chi Minh City in 2018 against the approval of the country’s controversial cyber security law and proposed special economic development plans.
The indictment said his posts criticized the country’s socialist system and Ho Chi Minh, the father of communism in Vietnam.
It said Vuong was heavily influenced by his anti-communist father, who was a soldier in the South Vietnamese army during the Vietnam War.
The indictment called for Vuong to be punished severely as an example to other people who may oppose the communist government.
Vuong’s lawyer, Nguyen Van Mieng, said only security officials and several journalists from state-run media outlets were allowed in the courtroom.
He said Vuong’s family were prevented from attending the hearing, while crowds were not allowed near the court.
The lawyer also said the judge did not call any witnesses, although he said he would do so a week ago.
Vuong said all he had done was express his own views on social issues. “I violated the law in the eyes of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam but my conscience tells me I have done nothing wrong,” the blogger told the court.
The lawyer said Vuong did not show any emotion when sentenced and has 45 days to appeal.
On June 18, security officers refused to allow Vuong’s father, Nguyen Van Bo, and his brother, Nguyen Quoc Doanh, to visit him at a prison camp in Da Lat city. They did not explain the reason why they were denied. Vuong’s relatives have not met him since his arrest.
Prison officials gave his relatives a piece of paper from Vuong, who had written “Please read page 508 of the New Testament book and understand what I mean.” On the page, the Acts of the Apostles recount how Peter and John were put in jail and questioned.
Lam Dong newspaper reported that on July 6 the court also gave harsh sentences to three bloggers for spreading posts on a “terrorist group” and defaming the leadership of the Communist Party and state.
Dang Toan Trung, 68, was given a seven-year jail term while both Tran Thi Anh Hoa, 57, and Dang Quang Khanh, 56, were jailed for six years. They also have to serve three years’ probation after their jail terms. They were prosecuted for conducting activities to overthrow the government.