Mon, Apr 16, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Vietnamese bloggers face ‘propaganda’ trial: media

SENSITIVE TOPICS:The Web activists touched on a number of topics that are seen as taboo, such as a dispute with China and a bauxite mining project

AFP, Hanoi

Three well-known Vietnamese bloggers face prosecution for “propaganda against the state” after being accused of posting political articles on a banned Web site, state media said yesterday.

Phan Thanh Hai, Nguyen Van Hai and Ta Phong Tan were accused of contributing material to the online “Free Journalists Club” of Vietnam, the Thanh Nien newspaper said.

The report said the bloggers posted 421 articles on the site between September 2007 and October 2010 and accused them of “distorting the truth, denigrating the party and state.”

“Phan Thanh Hai and Nguyen Van Hai also attended training in Thailand to overthrow the regime of Vietnam in March 2008,” the newspaper said.

The bloggers, who are already being held in custody, face a maximum of 20 years imprisonment for the charges.

Phan Thanh Hai’s blog dealt with issues deemed sensitive in Vietnam, such as a dispute with China over maritime sovereignty, controversial bauxite projects, a scandal around a debt-ridden state-owned shipbuilder and cases of famous dissidents.

He was arrested in Ho Chi Minh City in October 2010 and police confiscated his two computers and numerous documents and articles printed from the Internet.

Nguyen Van Hai was set to be released from a 30-month jail term for tax evasion in October 2010, but was kept locked up under the new charge.

Before his arrest in 2008, he had participated in anti-Chinese protests linked to Vietnam’s maritime territorial dispute with Beijing.

Former policewoman Ta Phong Tan used her blog to denounce corruption and injustice in the legal system.

In a January report, US-based Human Rights Watch said Hanoi had “intensified its repression” of dissidents last year.

Dozens of bloggers, peaceful political and religious advocates, and land rights activists were jailed last year under “vaguely defined articles” of the penal code, the right group said.

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