A Hanoi court on Wednesday sentenced a prominent Vietnamese political activist to six years in prison for conducting anti-state activities, his lawyer said, in a case that has raised international concerns over the communist country’s treatment of dissidents.
Nguyen Lan Thang, 48, participated in environmental and anti-China protests, voiced support for other jailed activists, and wrote blogs about Vietnam’s sociopolitical issues, according to his social media accounts.
The police said last year they arrested Thang on charges of “making, storing or distributing information, materials, documents to oppose the state of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” without providing further details.
Thang will also be placed under house arrest for two years after he serves his sentence, said his lawyer Le Van Luan after the closed-door trial session at the People’s Court of Hanoi.
Calls to the court went unanswered on Wednesday.
Authorities have convicted at least 163 people since 2018 for exercising their rights to freedom of expression or association under “vague or overbroad laws that criminalize protesting or criticizing the government,” according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
“Vietnam’s authorities systematically trample on human rights by punishing brave bloggers like Nguyen Lan Thang for expressing their views about the government,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at HRW, which called for Thang’s release and for charges against him to be dropped.
A delegation of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee of Human Rights during a visit to Hanoi last week expressed its “great concern at the worsening human rights situation in the country.”
“The delegation called for immediate and unconditional release of all the political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Vietnam, including NGO leaders, journalists and environmental activists,” it said in a statement.