Thu, Feb 08, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Vietnam jails activist for video of pollution protest

AP, HANOI

A court in central Vietnam on Tueday sentenced an activist to 14 years in jail for streaming a video of fishermen marching to file a lawsuit against a Taiwan-owned steel plant’s spill of toxins into the ocean.

Following a trial by the People’s Court in Nghe An Province that lasted half a day, Hoang Duc Binh was convicted of abusing democratic freedoms to infringe on the interests of the state, organization and people, and opposing police officers on duty, lawyer Ha Huy Son said.

Fellow activist Nguyen Nam Phong was given two years in jail for opposing police officers on duty.

During February last year’s livestream on Facebook, Binh commented that the fishermen were stopped and beaten by authorities.

Son said Binh told the court that he made the comments, but he denied committing a crime because what he said was true.

The court said his comments were untrue and slandered authorities.

The US was “deeply troubled” by the two activists’ convictions and sentences “under vague articles” of the law, US Department of State spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement from Washington.

The US$10.6 billion Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corp complex, which includes a steel plant, a power plant and a deep sea port, in Ha Tinh Province discharged toxins such as cyanide and phenol during a test run in April 2016.

It killed massive amounts of fish and other sea life along more than 200km of coastline, devastating fishing communities and tourism in four central provinces.

The chemical spill, one of the nation’s worst environmental disasters, sparked rare protests.

Despite economic reforms three decades ago that opened up the communist-ruled nation to foreign investment and trade, making it one of fastest-growing economies in the region, the one-party state maintains tight control on all aspects of life, including the media, and has zero tolerance for dissent.

Nauert said the trend of arrests and harsh sentences for peaceful activists was “very concerning” and called on Vietnam to release all prisons of conscience immediately.

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