Vietnam jails prominent activist for propaganda against state

Vietnam jails prominent activist for propaganda against state

HANOI: A Vietnamese court jailed a prominent blogger for 10 years on Thursday for publishing propaganda against the state, her lawyer said, the latest crackdown on critics of the Communist Party.

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, 37, known as "Me Nam" (Mother Mushroom), was found guilty at a full-day trial by a court in central province of Khanh Hoa, six months after she was arrested for posting anti-state reports, including one about civilians dying in police custody.

Despite sweeping reforms in Vietnam's economy and increasing openness towards social change, including gay, lesbian and transgender rights, the Communist Party retains tight media censorship and zero tolerance for criticism.

"The verdict was too heavy and unfair for the accused," said Vo An Don, one of her lawyers, adding that she would appeal.

The sentence comes at a time when Vietnam's human rights record is in the spotlight, with Human Rights Watch's report highlighting beatings and intimidation of activists, bloggers and dissidents.

"The court (case) was public and in accordance with Vietnamese law," said foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang.

In March 2009, Quynh spent nine days in police detention for receiving funds from Viet Tan, a California-based activist group, to print T-shirts carrying slogans against a major bauxite project in the Central Highlands, police said.

Quynh had also spoken out against a subsidiary of Taiwan's Formosa Plastics Corp that caused one of Vietnam's biggest environmental disasters in April.

The EU delegation in Vietnam called on Hanoi to release Quynh, saying "this arrest goes against the country's international and domestic human rights obligations".

Vietnam has been accused of using vague laws to stifle bloggers and activists who are getting more exposure from the proliferation of social media in Vietnam, which has one of Asia's highest concentrations of Web users.

Source: Reuters