HANOI, Feb 7 2018 : A court in central Vietnam jailed a prominent environmental blogger yesterday for 14 years for abusing his democratic freedom and opposing officials on duty, his lawyer said.
Vietnamese activist Hoang Duc Binh, commonly known as Hoang Binh, led several protests against authorities over the handling of a major environmental disaster caused by a steel plant being developed by Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics Corp in 2016.
Binh received two seven-year prison sentences for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe state interests” and for “opposing officials on duty,” while a fellow activist Nguyen Nam Phong received a two-year term, their lawyer Ha Huy Son told Reuters by telephone.
The 14-year jail term for Binh, 35, is one of the toughest sentences to have been delivered against an activist in Vietnam.
Another prominent blogger, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, known as “Me Nam” (Mother Mushroom), received a 10-year term last year.
“The sentences have been more and more severe, perhaps because of weaker interventions from the outsiders and foreigners, and also because the power holders think this sentence could have deterrence effect,” said Son, who has defended many more rights activists.
The U.S. State Department said in a statement it was “deeply troubled” by the convictions and sentences handed down to Binh and Phong.
“The trend of increased arrests, convictions, and harsh sentences of peaceful activists since early 2016 is very concerning,” the statement said.
Besides advocating on environmental issues, Binh also participated and called people to join an “independent union” in 2015, local news website Baonghean (Nghe An Newspaper) reported, citing authorities’ documents on Binh. – Reuters