A court in the northern Vietnamese province of Bac Ninh sentenced land rights activist and citizen journalist Do Cong Duong 48 months in prison on Monday for “disturbing public order,” his lawyer told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
Duong, 54, was detained on January 24 by the police of Tu Son commune in Bac Ninh while he was filming a forced eviction. He met his lawyer, Ha Huy Son, on April 5 and was charged with "disturbing public order."
“There were 4 defendants, and the other three plead guilty. Duong got the heaviest sentence of 48 months in prison under the article 331 of the 2015 penal code,” Son told RFA.
“My opinion is that the verdict is wrong. Duong did not disturb public order,” he said, adding that his client had asked son to file an appeal.
According to the Vietnamese Political Prisoner Database, Duong was warned by authorities in September 2017 that he was sharing on Facebook “content that distorts the truth, impacts upon the credibility and reputation of other citizens and organizations” and “content that contradicts the directions and policies of the Party and the law of the state."
The advocacy website said Duong was not in good health when he met lawyer Son in April and his family “has faced harassment over the years due to Duong's land rights and anti-corruption activism.”
Vietnam’s one-party communist government is currently detaining at least 130 political prisoners, including rights advocates and bloggers deemed threats to national security, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch. It also controls all media, censors the internet, and restricts basic freedoms of expression.
During the first eight months of 2018, at least 28 rights activists and bloggers have been put on trial, convicted, and sentenced to long prison terms, including prominent blogger and democracy advocate Tran Huynh Duy Thuc.
Thuc, who is serving a 16-year sentence, has been on a hunger strike for nearly a month to protest police pressure on him to plead guilty in exchange for amnesty.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Paul Eckert.