A Vietnamese citizen journalist who in September was sentenced to four years in prison for “disrupting the public order” has seen his sentence grow to nine years after being convicted on other charges.
Defend the Defenders reported on October 12 Do Cong Duong was sentenced Friday to five more years on the charge of “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code.
The NGO affiliated with Reporters Without Borders said that just as in the first trial, Duong’s relatives were not allowed to observe the second trial from inside the courtroom at the People’s Court of Bac Ninh Province.
Mr. Duong, 54, was detained in January by the police of Tu Son commune in Bac Ninh while he was filming a forced eviction. He was charged with "disturbing public order" and found guilty by the court in September. The second charge was added later.
Speaking about the second trial, Duong’s lawyer Ha Huy Son told RFA’s Vietnamese Service, “I said in court that the methods they used to collect the evidence against him did not comply with the law.”
“The right of expression is guaranteed by our constitution but it is not stipulated in any law specifically. I proved his innocence but they still convicted him anyway,” Son added.
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 Eugene Whong.