Man jailed for social disturbances – Vietnam jails environmental blogger for 14 years

Man jailed for social disturbances

vietnamnews Update: February, 07/2018 – 09:00

Hoàng Đức Bình at the court. – VNA/VNS Photo Bích Huệ

NGHỆ AN – The People’s Court of Diễn Châu District in the central province of Nghệ An yesterday sentenced 35-year-old Hoàng Đức Bình to seven years in prison on the charge of “resisting on-duty officials” and another seven years for “abusing the rights to democracy and freedom to infringe on the interests of the State and rights and interests of organisations and citizens.”

During a trial on Tuesday, Binh’s accomplice, Nguyễn Nam Phong, 38, from Sơn Hải commune, Quỳnh Lưu District, Nghệ An Province received a two-year prison term on the charge of “resisting on-duty officials.”

Bình, residing in Hưng Trung commune, Hưng Nguyên district, Nghệ An province, joined a number of organisations, associations and groups hostile to the State and the Communist Party such as “NoU Saigon” and “Phong trào Lao động Việt” (Vietnam Workers’ Movement).

He was arrested after investigations into his delivery of leaflets to incite people to join “Nghiệp đoàn độc lập” (Independent Union), and received administrative punishment for his violation of regulations on keeping and distributing illegal publications and printed materials that are not publications. However, he refused to pay the fine and fled to Nghệ An.

After returning to Nghệ An, Bình regularly posted and shared information and documents slandering the administration and advocating pluralism and multi-party movements via his Facebook account.

After the environmental incident caused by Taiwanese Hưng Nghiệp Formosa Hà Tĩnh Steel Co Ltd in four central localities, Bình, as the vice president of the “Phong trào lao động Việt”, formed the so-called “Association of Fishermen in the Central Region,” aiming to incite parishioners and fishermen to participate in the association, and select “seeds” to trigger demonstrations and security disturbances.

On the morning of February 14, 2017, Bình, Phong and about 300 people departed from Song Ngọc Parish in Quỳnh Lưu district to Kỳ Anh District of Hà Tĩnh central province on the pretext of lodging a complaint about Formosa Company.

With banners, the crowd travelled by different means of vehicles, causing traffic jams. However, Bình requested Phong, the driver, to ignore instructions of traffic policemen who were working to ensure traffic order. Their car then stopped on National Highway 1A, seriously blocking the traffic for several kilometers. Bình incited Phong to “resist on-duty officials.”

At the investigation agency and the court, Bình admitted that he used his mobile phone to live stream what happened as well as post comments on his Facebook account. He abused the right to the freedom of speech to slander and distort the facts and defame the police force while showing a video of their actions.

He also called on Facebook users to keep track of, publish and share comments to defame the administration and the police force. His acts seriously affected the prestige, honour and interests of Nghệ An police in particular and the people’s police in general, stirring bad opinions both at home and abroad, prosecutors said. – VNS

Vietnam jails environmental blogger for 14 years

Reuters
Vietnamese prominent dissidents Hoang Duc Binh and Nguyen Nam Phong stand at a court in Nghe An province
Vietnamese prominent dissidents Hoang Duc Binh (R) and Nguyen Nam Phong stand at a court in Nghe An province, Vietnam February 6, 2018. Mandatory credit VNA/Bich Hue/via REUTERS

(Reuters) – A court in central Vietnam jailed a prominent environmental blogger on Tuesday for 14 years for abusing his democratic freedom and opposing officials on duty, his lawyer said.

Vietnamese activist Hoang Duc Binh, commonly known as Hoang Binh, led several protests against authorities over the handling of a major environmental disaster caused by a steel plant being developed by Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics Corp in 2016.

Despite sweeping economic reform and increasing openness towards social change, including gay, lesbian and transgender rights, Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party retains tight media censorship and does not tolerate criticism.

Binh received two seven-year prison sentences for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe state interests” and for “opposing officials on duty”, while a fellow activist Nguyen Nam Phong received a two-year term, their lawyer Ha Huy Son told Reuters by telephone.

“Binh said he was innocent, while Phong asked for a reduction of the sentence… The trial was conducted without evidence and objectivity; it was imposed,” Son said.

The 14-year jail term for Binh, 35, is one of the toughest sentences to have been delivered against an activist in Vietnam.

Another prominent blogger, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, known as “Me Nam” (Mother Mushroom), received a 10-year term last year.

“The sentences have been more and more severe, perhaps because of weaker interventions from the outsiders and foreigners, and also because the power holders think this sentence could have deterrence effect,” said Son, who has defended many more rights activists.

Last week, Vietnam listed a U.S.-based group still loyal to the now defunct state of South Vietnam as a terrorist organisation while the Communist nation jailed four men for flying the South Vietnamese flag last month.

Besides advocating on environmental issues, Binh also participated and called people to join an “independent union” in 2015, local news website Baonghean (Nghe An Newspaper) reported, citing authorities’ documents on Binh.

(Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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