Pro-democracy activist Vi Duc Hoi’s eight-year jail sentence has been reduced to five years on appeal but is still extremely harsh, Reporters Without Borders said today, reiterating its call for the release of Hoi and all the other 17 netizens currently detained in Vietnam.
In a decision issued yesterday, the appeal court also reduced the length of the house arrest that Hoi will have to serve after release from prison from five years to three. The original sentence of eight years in prison and five years house arrest on a charge of anti-government propaganda was imposed last January.
“Vi Du Hoi’s only ‘crime’ was to post comments online on such subjects as land expropriations, corruption and the advantages of a multiparty system,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The reduction of his sentence on appeal is just symbolic and indicative of a government desire to camouflage the severity of the repression.”
The organization added: “Another cyber-dissident, Cu Huy Ha Vu, was sentenced last month to seven years in prison and three years of house arrest on the same charge. The authorities can no longer hide the scale of these arbitrary arrests and severe sentences. Fearing Jasmine Revolution-style destabilization, they are criminalizing free speech and, in so doing, have confirmed Vietnam’s position as the world’s second biggest prison for cyber-dissidents.”
Hoi was awarded a Human Rights Watch prize in 2009.
Cyber-dissident gets eight years in prison for anti-government propaganda
Reporters Without Borders condemns the eight-year jail sentence that a court in the northern province of Lang Son imposed yesterday on Vi Duc Hoi, a former Communist Party official turned cyber-dissident who has been detained since October.
Convicted of anti-government propaganda and threatening national security under article 88 of the 1999 criminal code, the 54-year-old Hoi was also sentenced to five years of house arrest after his release from prison. His lawyer, Tran Lam, said he would appeal
Reporters Without Borders calls on the authorities to quash Hoi’s conviction and release him without delay. At the opening of the Communist Party’s congress on 11 January, the press freedom organisation had urged the government to show clemency and to free all of the country’s imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents (read the article).
“The world’s second biggest prison for netizens, Vietnam is ignoring international pressure and the appeals of human rights groups and is sticking to its policy of repression and control of news and information,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The government is continuing its habit of arbitrarily convicting citizens whose only crime is to dare to express their views freely.”
The press freedom organization added: “An additional layer of repression was recently introduced when the government adopted a new decree regulating the activities of journalists and bloggers.” (read the article)
After joining the Communist Party in 1980, Hoi was soon put in charge of a local propaganda department. Expelled from the party in 2007 for calling for democracy, he began to post comments online on such sensitive subjects as land expropriations, corruption and the advantages of a multiparty system. His home was searched on 7 October and he was formally arrested 20 days later. He had been facing the possibility of a 20-year jail sentence.
A member of the Bloc 8406 network of pro-democracy activists, Hoi was previously arrested in April 2008 for taking part in a protest during the Olympic torch relay.