A day before prominent independent blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh and his assistant are scheduled to go on trial in Vietnam, a human rights organization is calling on Hanoi to release the pair.
Nguyen Huu Vinh, who also goes by the pen name Anh Ba Sam, and Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy are scheduled to appear before the People’s Court of Hanoi on Wednesday to face charges of “abusing the rights to freedom and democracy to infringe upon the interests of the state” under Article 258 of Vietnam’s penal code.
The pair has been held by authorities since May 2014. Their trial was originally scheduled for January 19, but was postponed on the eve of the Vietnam Communist Party’s Congress, held every five years.
“The bloggers Nguyen Huu Vinh and Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy have been detained for almost two years simply for criticizing the Vietnam Communist Party and its leadership, even though the government has ratified international human rights law that unequivocally protects their actions,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities should immediately free the bloggers and compensate each for this unjust detention.”
Vietnam is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which protects peaceful expression, including expression critical of governments and leaders.
Nguyen Huu Vinh and Nguyen Thi Minh Thuym started the political blog Basam in 2007, aiming to educate Vietnamese readers by providing links to news from a variety of perspectives.
While most links are from state media, the blog also published articles and commentaries on Vietnamese political, social, economic, and cultural issues. In addition the blog published translations of English and French language articles and excerpts from books.
During the six years it published, Basam attracted several million readers inside and outside Vietnam.The arrest of the bloggers has captured international attention.
Nguyen Huu Vinh, a former policeman, founded Basam as a means to store articles for his own reference, but the site soon became a platform for activists to share online posts and other content critical of the government.
Communist Vietnam, where all media are state-run, does not tolerate dissent, and rights groups identify Article 258 as among the vague provisions that authorities have been using to detain and jail dozens of writers and bloggers over the last two years.
“Vietnam’s friends and donors should publicly challenge the ludicrous charges against Nguyen Huu Vinh and Nguyen Thi Minh,” Adams said. “They should demand that the government free all political prisoners and drop all pending charges against dissenting voices.”