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Vietnamese Facebook user jailed for 5 years for criticizing government

A Vietnamese court on Thursday sentenced a Facebook user to five years in prison for posting stories criticizing government authorities, with an additional five years of probation to be served following his release, state media and other sources said.

Nguyen Duy Linh, a resident of the Chau Thanh district of southern Vietnam’s Ben Tre province, was jailed following a 3-hour trial in the Ben Tre People’s Court. He had been charged with “creating, storing, disseminating information, materials, publications and items against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” under Article 117 of Vietnam’s Penal Code.

Linh’s wife Nguyen Ngoc Tuyet was present at his trial as a witness, but friends and other political dissidents were barred by authorities from attending and Linh had waived his right to a defense by lawyers in the case, sources said.

Commenting on the outcome of the case, Phil Robertson — deputy director for Asia for the rights group Human Rights Watch — told RFA by email that posting criticisms of government policies and authorities online should not considered a crime.

“All that Nguyen Duy Linh did was exercise his right to freedom of expression, which is a core human right that is explicitly protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that Vietnam ratified,” Robertson said.

Vietnam’s one-party communist government “seems intent on proving that it is one of the most rights-repressing governments in the Asian region,” Robertson added. “The authorities in Hanoi have completely lost any idea of how to rule a modernizing, 21st century country with intelligence and respect for the people.”

State media reporting on the case said that Linh from March 2020 to September 2021 had posted on his Facebook page 193 stories with content “offensive to the Party and State’s leaders or against the government.” Linh had also posted what state sources called false stories about socio-economic issues and the spread of COVID-19 in Vietnam, according to media reports.

Linh is the fifth person accused in Vietnam since the beginning of this year of “spreading anti-State materials” under Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code or “propagandizing against the State” under Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code. Both laws have been criticized by activists and rights groups as measures used to stifle voices of dissent in Vietnam.

Translated by Anna Vu for RFA Vietnamese. Written in English by Richard Finney.