Rights groups have condemned a move by the Vietnamese government to put a well-known Catholic blogger and activist on trial for "affronting" the national flag, calling it a direct attack on her freedom to express her views. Huynh Thuc Vy is due to stand trial on Nov. 22 for "insulting a national emblem under Article 276 of the penal code," according to an announcement by the People's Court of Buon Ho in Dak Lak province. If convicted, Vy faces "re-education" for six months to three years in jail. Vy, co-founder of Vietnamese Women for Human Rights, a domestic civil society group working for local women's rights, has been under house arrest since August after police detained her and confiscated her cell phone, laptop and camera. She had previously refused to answer a police summons to face questioning. Police wanted to talk to her about a picture she posted on Facebook in September 2017, which featured her and a national flag smeared with white paint. The 33-year-old mother of one said she "sprayed paint on the flag to symbolize my freedom to express my views. This was part of a series of actions, highlighting my belief that all Vietnamese have the freedom to express their political views." Vy said on Facebook that she is not concerned about the trial. "My health and business are the most important things now," said the dissident who earns a living as a coffee supplier. Catholic priest and rights activist, Father Anthony Le Ngoc Thanh, accused the government of arbitrarily charging Vy because Article 276 was revoked in a 2015 amendment to the penal code. "Vy's expressed her political views and did not violate the law because the constitution allows her the right to free speech," Father Thanh said. He said it was grossly unjust to try her on such a charge. Many football fans wrap national flags around their bottoms in public places and are not prosecuted, he said. He said Vietnamese are not proud of this flag, which is a symbol of the sufferings endured by people since the country's reunification in 1975. Many rights, civil society and religious groups and activists have said that the national flag connected with the communists-led revolution
to take power is not chosen by the people. "The state represented by the flag is a totalitarian party-ruled state which deprive civilians of all basic rights of freedom," they said in a petition. The people are forced to worship the flag so as to serve the tyrannical government, they added.
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They condemned corrupt authorities accepting bribes allow companies to cause rampant pollution, police keep untold numbers of prisoners of conscience
, publicly attacking rights activists and torturing them in detention centers. They said Vy's act of tainting the one party-ruled government's flag aimed at not inciting viewers to use violence, causing riots or danger to public security. "Her behavior only express the strongest disapproval of the government's failure of state management," they said adding that patriots must have a duty to protest against the government's wrong policies. "We ask the government to annul the prosecution against Vy and to end crackdown on local dissidents," they said.