Ba Sam appeal rejected

Police checked the identity of lawyers and family members of the accused as they entered the court. Photo courtesy Reuters

Police checked the identity of lawyers and family members of the accused as they entered the court. Photo courtesy Reuters

An appeal court in Hanoi has upheld the jail sentences imposed on two bloggers, whose conviction in March signalled the authorities’ growing intolerance of press freedom.

Nguyen Huu Vinh, who produced a popular blog under the name of Anh Ba Sam, firmly declared his innocence before the judges.

His lawyers argued that prosecutors had failed to bring concrete evidence against him during the initial trial.

Reports said the judges cut short the representations and reaffirmed the convictions on a charge of “abusing democratic freedoms”. They upheld the sentence of five years for Vinh and three years for his assistant, Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy.

There was a heavy police presence around the court building, but supporters of the accused were able to watch the proceedings on a monitor in a neighbouring room.

Few had expected a different outcome given the government’s intensification of its campaign against human rights activists and pro-democracy campaigners this year.

A former police officer from a prominent communist family, Vinh had once seemed to have some immunity as he published articles critical of government policy on his blog.

He continued the work for some seven years before his arrest in 2014.

Analysts believe the authorities are trying to send a signal to other independent bloggers that they risk their freedom by challenging the authority of the Communist party.