Vietnamese Bloggers' Network (VBN) - On March 30th 2016, the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh city sentenced Mr. Nguyen Dinh Ngoc, a.k.a blogger Nguyen Ngoc Gia, to 4 years of imprisonment and 3 years of probation. The man was charged with “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam”, based on Article 88 of the Penal Code.
His arrest, temporary detention, and sentencing have exposed the violations by the legal system as well as the authoritarian nature of the Vietnam’s Communist regime:
1. The scanty information on blogger Nguyen Ngoc Gia’s acts of infringement, which was broadcast over the state-owned media, was inconsistent and untruthful.
- According to the news article on Tuoi Tre Online, “…the accused Ngoc started accessing reactionary and hostile overseas websites to collect information that was fabricated or falsified to slander the Communist Party, the State of Vietnam and the Party and State leaders, then sent to such websites as Danlambao, Dan Chim Viet, Muoi hai ben nuoc, RFA…” (1).
If this account is true, then blogger Nguyen Ngoc Gia was only responsible for collecting and disseminating the information, and was not the author of the information condemned as vilifying to the Communist Party and State.
- Meanwhile, according to Lao Dong (Labor) newspaper, “…Ngoc collected articles posted on the Internet, then transformed them into his own articles with the purpose of maligning the State…”(2)
It is inferred here that blogger Nguyen Ngoc Gia used the articles written by others, making certain changes to turn them into his own materials, and signing his name in there.
The discrepancy between these two accounts is the indication that numerous false accusations have been trumped up in the indictment.
2. As mentioned in the indictment, blogger Nguyen Ngoc Gia was arrested because two days earlier, on Dec 25th 2014, “Saigon Post and Telecommunications Service Corporation (SPTSC) sent a document to Ho Chi Minh city police regarding their detection that the Internet subscriber at Mr. Nguyen Dinh Ngoc’s home had disseminated over the Internet those articles maligning the Party and State of Vietnam” (1).
This means that the Saigon Post and Telecommunications Service Corporation snooped on the mail contents of their Internet subscriber. This act was a grave transgression on the privacy right of citizens and also reveals that the company was serving as an extended arm of the police in spying on the population.
3. As reported on the trial session, “Considering that the accused has a good personal background, with no criminal history, that his grandmother was recognized as a “Vietnamese Heroic Mother”, his father has 50-year Communist Party membership, his mother used to be a secret sympathizer and supporter of the (National Liberation) Revolution, and the accused himself made honest declarations and show his repentance, the jury decided to sentence Ngoc to 4 years of imprisonment” (1)
The fact that those elements concerning his grandmother, his father’s Communist Party membership, or his mother’s past role as a “Revolution’s base” (supporter) was taken into consideration for determining how severe the penalty should be also signify that there is no such thing as equality among every citizen of Vietnam before the law and the court system.
4. From his day of arrest until the trial, all the information on blogger Nguyen Ngoc Gia as well as his charging document was kept completely secret. Even the information on the availability of a defense lawyer for him was not announced by the press. The refusal to publicize his indictment to substantiate his charge of maligning the Party/State indicates that this sentence of 4-year imprisonment and 3-year probation is a wrongful and unfair judgment.
In summary, the arrest, temporary detention, concealment of information, inconsistent details, together with the content of the trial and sentence imposed on blogger Nguyen Ngoc Gia, once again exposed the arbitrary and savage nature of the legal system as well as those individuals and agencies in charge of law enforcement in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.