HANOI (AFP) – A court in Vietnam on Friday handed a five year jail term to an activist for social media posts criticising the government.
Former middle school teacher Le Trong Hung is the fifth activist to be imprisoned in the last two weeks by the communist state, which tolerates virtually no opposition to its rule.
The 41-year-old campaigned as an independent for the country’s national assembly election in May, but was rejected as a candidate by the authorities.
He was arrested in March and tried on Friday for “making, storing, distributing or propagating information and documents aimed at opposing the socialist republic of Vietnam”.
According to lawyer Ha Huy Son, Hung was given a five-year jail term and a five-year probation order at a trial in Hanoi lasting just half a day.
Past state media reports said Hung had used social media to “publish writing or livestream the distortion and disparagement of the government”. Human Rights Watch called on Vietnam to release Hung “immediately and unconditionally”.
“Imprisoning activists like Le Trong Hung who dare to run as independent candidates for Parliament shows what a charade Vietnam’s elections are,” the organisation’s Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson said in a statement.
Vietnam’s hardline administration often moves swiftly to stifle dissent, jailing activists, journalists and any critic with a large audience on Facebook.