(VNRN) – Almost immediately after the trial in which blogger Truong Duy Nhat (Trương Duy Nhất) was sentenced to two years of imprisonment for allegedly “abusing the rights of freedom” in criticizing government officials, the Brotherhood for Democracy on Mar. 4 issued a call for him to be released, calling the trial “political” and a “serious breach” of basic human rights.
Nhat was sentenced by a court in Da Nang under Article 258 of the Penal Code for “abusing democratic freedoms,” based on his writings on the blog “Another Point of View.” Several postings criticize the many errors committed by top officials in government and in the Vietnamese Communist Party, and those postings were singled out in the charging documents. The indictment also reveals that when questioned by the police, Nhat admitted to writing the blog but refused to admit violating any law.
In calling for Nhat’s release, the Brotherhood for Democracy said that Nhat “only used freedom of expression, freedom of the press to convey his opinions to the public about inadequacies of the Vietnamese Communist Party and government in administrating and managing the country, his views of the political, social, and economic issues within the country.”
“Those freedoms are lawful and constitutional for all people living in Vietnam,” the Brotherhood wrote.
Article 258 has been criticized as ambiguous and open to broad interpretation that grossly violates freedom of speech. The Brotherhood in its letter calls Article 258 “an elusive law, which is used to penalize individuals for expressing contradictory opinions with those of the Vietnamese Communist Party and government.”
In late 2013, a group of Vietnamese bloggers launched a “No 258″ campaign calling attention to the law’s vagueness and danger of arbitrarily using it to suppress legitimate free speech. Copies of the group’s petition were hand delivered to many diplomatic missions in Hanoi and subsequently several bloggers who did so were questioned by the police.
The Brotherhood for Democracy is a group of democracy activists both in Vietnam and abroad, many of whom are former political prisoners.