Pham Kim Khanh (first, right) at a students' meeting in 2013. (Photo by Van Hai Nguyen)
A Catholic student blogger who fought for democracy and freedom of expression in Vietnam has been sentenced to six years’ imprisonment.
On Oct. 25, the People’s Court in Thai Nguyen Province, near Hanoi, sentenced Phan Kim Khanh for engaging in anti-government “propaganda.”
The Thai Nguyen newspaper reported that since 2015 Khanh had vilified communist leaders and distorted official policies.
Lawyer Ha Huy Son, who defended Khanh in court, said he used the internet to press for greater media freedom and democratic reforms, including a multiparty system.
Authorities accused Khanh of having links to an allegedly ‘reactionary’ US-based group called Viet Tan.
Son said Khanh did not deny criticizing the Communist Party.
Redemptorist Father John Nguyen Ngoc Nam Phong said Khanh was a fifth-year student studying international relations at Thai Nguyen University.
He had been awarded for his good academic performance and involvement in social activities.
Father Phong said on Facebook that Khanh had patriotically spoken out against rampant corruption among government officials and social injustice.
As a consequence, he was arrested on March 21.
Human Rights Watch said on Oct. 24 that Vietnam should immediately release Khanh as Vietnam’s penal code is arbitrarily used to stifle dissent.
“The bogus crime of conducting propaganda against the state is designed to silence peaceful critics of Vietnamese authorities,” said Brad Adams, who is the group’s Asia director.
“Vietnam ought to get rid of these laws and stop persecuting students and ordinary people for just talking about the country’s problems on the Internet.
“Students should be encouraged to write about social and political problems, not punished.”
Human Rights Watch said more than 100 activists currently imprisoned in Vietnam should be unconditionally released.