A lawyer representing a detained Vietnamese blogger and his assistant has petitioned judicial authorities in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi for his clients’ immediate release, saying that last month’s postponement of their trial has now exceeded the time limit allowed by law.
Blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh, also known as Anh Ba Sam, and his assistant Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy were arrested at their homes on May 5, 2014 for posting essays online “that had the potential to tarnish the state apparatus’ prestige,” Vietnamese state media said at the time.
Though a trial was finally scheduled for Jan. 19, authorities postponed the proceeding, leading lawyer Ha Huy Son to file a petition this month urging the pair’s immediate release, Son told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Monday.
“The time for postponement of the trial has now exceeded the limit stipulated by law,” Son said. “Therefore, there is no legal basis to detain them any longer.”
Authorities have so far failed to respond to the petition, which was sent on Feb. 16, Son said.
“I don’t know why,” Son said, adding, “I think this is a violation of the law by the agencies involved in the case.”
“If we still don’t receive a response, we will continue sending our petitions,” he said.
'Interests of the state'
Vinh, founder of the political blog Basam, and Thuy were charged in November 2014 under Article 258 of Vietnam’s penal code with “abusing freedom and democracy to infringe upon the interests of the state,” state media said at the time.
The two could face jail terms of up to seven years if convicted under the charges.
Vinh, a former policeman, founded Basam in 2007 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.
Speaking to RFA, Son said that he had last seen Vinh and Thuy in January, “just before their trial was postponed.”
“They were in strong spirits and they maintained their innocence, but physically they are not well,” he said.
“[Vinh’s] family has asked the authorities several times to let him stay at home for medical treatment, but they have never received a response,” he said.
Reported by Gia Minh for RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Richard Finney.