Blogger Ba Sam to face trial on charges of “tarnishing the State”

By    March 21, 2016 | 02:05 am PT
Blogger Ba Sam to face trial on charges of “tarnishing the State”
Blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh and his assistant Nguyen Minh Thuy will go on trial this Wednesday on charges of “abusing freedoms and democratic rights to impinge on the interests of the State, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and citizens” under Article 258 (2) of the Criminal Code, said the Hanoi People’s Court.

Nguyen Huu Vinh and Nguyen Minh Thuy were arrested in May 2014 for publishing several articles on the two blogs Dan Quyen (Citizens' Rights) and Chep Su Viet (Writing Vietnamese History) with content that “slandered and distorted facts about the State”.

According to state prosecutors, Nguyen Huu Vinh, director of a private investigation company, created Dan Quyen and Chep su Viet and gave his accountant Nguyen Minh Thuy access to the blogs and some administrator rights.

The indictment, issued in February 2015, stated that more than 2,000 articles had been posted on Dan Quyen, receiving nearly 40,000 comments. The two blogs had over 3.7 million visits.

The Ministry of Communication and Information in 2014 said there was enough evidence to press charges over 24 blog posts which had “false information and unfounded facts that distort the Party’s polices and guidelines and the state law; slander individuals; tarnish the reputation of state agencies and organizations; introduce negative one-way viewpoints; cause chaos and anxiety; and create distrust among people about state leaders.”

The blog posts were alleged to have negative and provocative contents including “Corruption”, “Anti-Corruption and Institution” and “A Few Thoughts on the Current Situation and Mission”.

Some individuals who had involvement with the two bloggers, the prosecutors said, were not mentioned in the charges because they were either unaware of the motives of the accused or taken advantage of without knowing that they were being used.

According to a police statement on the charges, the two were also accused of having communication with a Radio Free Asia correspondent who, as the investigation agency claimed, was “one of the U.S.-based anti-Vietnam ringleaders”.

Nguyen Huu Vinh, 60, is a former policeman and a Communist Party member who previously worked at the Committee for Vietnamese Overseas under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. His father was a former member of the Central Committee of the Vietnamese Communist Party for two working terms, head of the Labor Ministry and former Vietnam Ambassador to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

After 20 years working for the government, Vinh left his job in November 1999 to study law. A few months later, he founded V-Protection & Investigation Co., Ltd, the first private investigation company in Hanoi.

In September 2007, he adopted the pen name Ba Sam (Talking Nonsense) for his blog on the former social media platform Yahoo 360. The blog often reposted the articles of domestic online newspapers with commentary added by the blog's administrators, as well as translated versions of foreign news on political, economic and social issues.

Under Vietnamese criminal procedures, suspects for offenses deemed extremely serious by authorities may be held in the custody for up to 16 months. Vinh and Thuy were said to currently be in the custody of a pretrial detention center in Hanoi run by the Ministry of Public Security. 

Convictions for anti-state charges under Article 258 of the penal code carry a maximum prison sentence of seven years.

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