Appeal court affirms prison sentence for blogger Truong Duy Nhat

<- Police transport van arrives with blogger Truong Duy Nhat to the court of appeals in Da Nang. (Photo: huynhngocchenh.blogspot.de)

(VNRN) – A lightning fast appellate hearing in Danang today affirmed the two-year sentence imposed on blogger Truong Duy Nhat (Trương Duy Nhất) for allegedly “abusing the rights of freedom” in writing his blog “Another Point of View” (Một Góc Nhìn Khác).

Nhat’s wife and daughter were present in court, and were able to talk to him. His daughter brought home toys Nhat had made in prison for her.

Several other friends, however, were not admitted to the hearing. They were told they had to have sought permission beforehand.

Some of his friends had expected that he would be sentenced to time served and professed no surprise in seeing the appellate verdict.

“I was just naive,” one of Nhat’s friend said. Friends say the appeal court made its decision after less than two hours of hearing.

The prosecution was based on 12 specific entries on Nhat’s blog, dating from 2009 through 2013, in which he criticized the performances of top government and Party officials, including the Secretary-General and the Prime Minister.

Nhat’s lawyer Tran Vu Hai (Trần Vũ Hải) asked the court to call the officials as witnesses, as the indictment alleges damages to the reputation of the officials. The court, however, refused.

Nhat was convicted of violating Article 258 of the Vietnamese Penal Code, an ambiguous provision which makes it a crime to “abuse the rights to freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of belief, religion, assembly, association and other democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens.”

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.

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