HANOI (AFP) – A Vietnamese activist has been sentenced to five years in prison on charges of propaganda against the state, his lawyer said yesterday.
The communist state has strict curbs on press freedom and moves swiftly to stamp out dissent and arrest critics, especially those who find an audience on social media platforms.
Le Van Dung, who had discussed Vietnam’s socio-economics and politics in live Facebook and YouTube videos, was arrested in June last year on anti-state charges.
“Dung consistently rejected the allegations that his speeches on his clips were illegal,” said his lawyer Ha Huy Son.
The activist, who also discussed Vietnam’s sometimes fractious relationship with neighbouring China, was sentenced to five years imprisonment and five years probation. His lawyer confirmed that he would appeal.
The 51-year-old’s arrest last year – which came after he spent a month on the run – was condemned by international rights organisations. Human Rights Watch (HRW) said he was among around 60 people imprisoned for criticising the government.
“The Vietnamese penal code provision on propaganda seeks to intimidate people with the threat to shut up or be locked up,” said Phil Robertson, HRW’s deputy Asia director, in a statement before the sentencing.