A Vietnamese blogger was sentenced to five years in prison for posting anti-government content on multiple blogs, according to a court ruling on Wednesday.
Nguyen Huu Vinh, commonly known by his pen name as Anh Ba Sam, faces five years behind bars while his assistant, Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, will be serving three years for abusing democratic freedoms to violate the interests of the state.
Vinh, 60 and Thuy, 36, both from Hanoi, have been in custody since May 5, 2014 after being accused of writing and publishing anti-government posts.
The two went on trial at the People’s Court in the capital city on Wednesday morning.
Security was tightened around the court, and local reporters could only follow the session through a monitor, carrying nothing but a pen and piece of paper distributed by court managers.
According to the indictment, Vinh set up his blog, titled Ba Sam, in 2009 to present his own writings, as well as links to outside sources covering political, social, and economic topics.
He later created two more similar sites named ‘Dan Quyen,’ literally translated as ‘Civil Rights,’ and ‘Chep Su Viet,’ or ‘Writing Vietnamese History,’ in September 2013 and January 2014, respectively.
The defendant then assigned the administration of the two sites to Thuy and together they posted a total of 24 articles based on untruths and groundless content which distorted the policies of the Vietnamese Party and the state’s law.
The writings were said to provide one-sided points of view, affecting the public’s trust in the leadership of the government and the Party.
The indictment also showed that the two websites gathered over 3.7 million visitors, many of whom were manipulated by the negative information presented in the posts.
Representatives of the People's Procuracy considered the actions of the two defendants criminal violations, demanding Vinh be sentenced to five to six years in prison and Thuy be sentenced to two to three years.
Vinh’s attorney Tran Van Tao pleaded that the defendant was not guilty as he did not have any motive and that the jury should take his personal background as a former police officer and a Party member into account.
“Vinh told me several times that he established the blogs only to create a connecting channel between the government and people,” Tao added at the trial.
Thuy also denied her charges, stating that she merely published the articles as per her authorization, without adjusting the original posts.
However, the jury subsequently announced the two were guilty as they had all necessary evidence for a conviction based on the case files and trial process.
Vinh and Thuy could not be considered for any reduction in their sentences as they did not plead guilty during the court trial, according to the jury.
Vinh used to be a police officer whose father was a Minster of Labor and Vietnamese Ambassador to the erstwhile Soviet Union.
He quit his position in 1999 and opened a private investigation firm, in which Thuy was one of his employees.