Viet Nam urged to release jailed blogger
The Vietnamese authorities must immediately release a French-Vietnamese blogger who has been sentenced to three years in prison on national security charges, Amnesty International said today.Professor Pham Minh Hoang, a maths lecturer who holds dual nationality, was accused of writing articles that “blackened the image of the country” by the judge at the trial in Ho Chi Minh City. He told the court his writings were not aimed at overthrowing anyone, and that Vietnam needs to be more democratic, reports said.“To imprison a blogger for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression is outrageous. The authorities should immediately release Professor Hoang, and stop their harsh crackdown on peaceful government critics and activists” said Donna Guest, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Asia-Pacific. “Tuesday’s sentence, and the continuing arrests of activists and bloggers paint an increasingly bleak picture of freedom of expression and association in Viet Nam,” she said.Professor Pham Minh Hoang, who is a member of the banned US-based opposition group Viet Tan, joined other activists in criticizing a Chinese-backed bauxite mine in Viet Nam’s Central Highlands, which they believe risks causing environmental degradation in the area.The lecturer, who blogged under the name Phan Kien Quoc, moved to France in 1973 but returned in 2000 to settle in Viet Nam, where he taught mathematics at the Polytechnic University of Ho Chi Minh City.Dozens of peaceful political critics and activists have been sentenced to long prison terms since Viet Nam began a crackdown on freedom of expression in October 2009. Amnesty International is calling on the Vietnamese government to allow judicial independence, and to repeal or reform vaguely worded security legislation used to prosecute peaceful critics.Pham Minh Hoang’s family says he will appeal against the sentence.