2 Vietnamese bloggers charged for criticizing death penalty case

They were charged under Article 331, often used to suppress dissent and criticism.


RFA | 2024.03.28

Vietnamese authorities on Thursday arrested and charged two Facebook bloggers for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe the interests of the state” for posting comments about the handling of a case of a death row inmate, Vietnamese media reported. 

The Security Investigation Agency of the Binh Duong provincial police charged Nguyen Duc Du and Hoang Quoc Viet under Article 331 of Vietnam’s Penal Code, saying their social media posts about death row inmate Ho Duy Hai being unjustly sentenced had insulted judiciary agencies. 

Their cases bring to five the number of people who have been prosecuted under Article 331, a law that rights groups say authorities regularly use to suppress dissent or criticism of the government.

Authorities arrested and temporarily detained Du, 48, while they banned Viet, 46, from leaving his residential area. Both live in Binh Duong province in southern Vietnam.

The Public Security Ministry’s People’s Public Security Newspaper reported that police said Du and Viet published many social media posts with content that distorted, slandered and defamed agencies and individuals – without specifying the content of their posts.

The prosecution of the two bloggers also illustrates the lengths that authorities will go to to silence critics for comments they made or social media posts they wrote in the past.

Nguyen Van Dai, who used to work as a lawyer in Hanoi for many years, said social media platforms have been full of information defending and demanding justice for Ho Duy Hai since 2008. 

Hai was arrested in March 2008 and convicted nine months later of robbery and the murder of two postal employees in Long An province. He was sentenced to five years in prison for the theft and given the death penalty for the murders, despite a lack of crucial evidence and irregularities in how the case was handled.

In 2020, the Supreme People’s Court rejected a request by the Supreme People’s Procuracy to reinvestigate the case, prompting Hai’s family members to petition lawmakers over his death sentence. That petition has not been addressed, and Hai, now 39, is still on death row. 

The prosecution of Du and Viet is a crackdown on freedom of speech and was carried out to serve the political purposes of several officials in the judiciary system, Dai said. 

“The arrest and detention of the two individuals who posted information concerning the Ho Duy Hai case on social media is nothing more than suppression, as the information [they posted] has been available for a long time,” Dai said. 

Numerous democratic countries and human rights groups have called on Hanoi to repeal or amend Article 331, along with Article 117, arguing they are abused to stifle dissent.

Translated by Anna Vu for RFA Vietnamese. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.




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