Activist Jailed for Facebook Posts
Court to Hear Appeal of 6-Year Sentence
Human Rights Watch
Bangkok, November 6, 2019
A Vietnamese court
will hear an appeal on November 7, 2019 of a six-year sentence for a Vietnamese
environmental activist convicted of criticizing the government on Facebook,
Human Rights Watch said today. The prosecution and detention of the activist,
Nguyen Ngoc Anh, clearly violated his right to freedom of speech. The
authorities should reverse his conviction and immediately release him.
The police arrested Nguyen Ngoc Anh in August 2018 and charged him with “making,
storing, disseminating, or propagandizing information, materials, and products
that aim to oppose the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under article
117 of the country’s penal code. In June 2019, after a summary trial, a court in
Ben Tre province sentenced him to six years in prison, followed by five years on
probation. A higher court in Ho Chi Minh City is scheduled to hear the appeal.
“Nguyen Ngoc Anh is among a rapidly increasing group of political dissenters
locked up for expressing opinions on Facebook,” said John
Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “Vietnam’s government seems to
think that using the platform for its intended purpose is a crime.”
State media described his sharing of “reactionary” material as intended to
“badmouth” the state and party and incite people to protest during the
independence holiday on September 2. However, Nguyen Ngoc Anh’s writings were on
prototypical issues of concerns to social activists in Vietnam: the
environmental destruction wrought by a Formosa
company’s toxic waste spill in
April 2016, the lack
of free choice in elections in 2016,
and concerns for the welfare
of political prisoners.
Nguyen Ngoc Anh’s wife, Nguyen Thi Chau, wrote on Facebook that when she visited
him in October, he “dragged his feet with a lot of difficulty.” She wrote that
he told her that another
prisoner, Do Huu Cuong, recently had beaten him until he fainted.
Nguyen Ngoc Anh reported the beating to prison guards, but no action was taken.
On October 23, the police in the town of Binh Dai in Ben Tre summoned
Nguyen Thi Chau for questioning.
They asked her about her relationship
with family members of other political prisoners,
wearing a T-shirt that dismisses China’s claim to a disputed sea territory,
welcoming home a political
prisoner, Nguyen Dang Minh Man,
and giving an interview
to Radio Free Asia.
“First the Vietnamese authorities imprison people to prevent them exercising
their free speech rights, then they attempt to silence family members who want
to advocate for their freedom,” Sifton said. “Vietnam’s international donors and
trade partners should publicly condemn these abuses and voice support for
critics and activists.”
The imprisonment of Nguyen Ngoc Anh is part of an ongoing crackdown against
critics of the party and government. During the first 10 months of 2019, the
Vietnamese authorities convicted at least 20 people and sentenced them to
between 6 months and 10 years in prison for criticizing the government,
campaigning for religious freedom, advocating basic civil and political rights,
or fighting corruption.
arrested Nguyen Nang Tinh in
Van Diep in
June, and Nguyen
Quoc Duc Vuong in
September for posting or sharing Facebook posts. In October, the authorities
for Nguyen Thi Hue, Nguyen
Xuan Hao on
Human Rights Watch has repeatedly urged internet companies to raise concerns
publicly about persons unjustly imprisoned for online expression and pressure
Vietnam to reform its abusive laws on cybersecurity and online expression.
For more Human Rights Watch reporting on
Vietnam, please visit:
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