Vietnamese Facebooker sentenced to 14 years behind bars for igniting protest

By Minh Minh   February 6, 2018 | 03:28 am PT
Vietnamese Facebooker sentenced to 14 years behind bars for igniting protest
Hoang Duc Binh (R) and Nguyen Nam Phong stand at a court in Nghe An Province on Tuesday. Photo by Vietnam News Agency via Reuters
He spent years campaigning against the government and made use of an environmental disaster to spark unrest, the court said.

A Vietnamese man was given a 14-year prison sentence on Tuesday for abusing democratic freedom and assaulting police officers on duty.

Hoang Duc Binh, 35, received seven years for “resisting people in the performance of their official duties”, and a further seven years for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State and the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens.”

Binh joined hundreds of protesters on February 14 last year demanding justice from Taiwanese steel plant Formosa, the court in the central province of Nghe An said, as cited by the province’s official newspaper.

According to the judges, Binh had prevented local police from maintaining order during the protest, which caused a tailback of around five kilometers.

Nguyen Nam Phong, 38, who also took part in the protest, received a lesser sentence of two years because he was “sincere” during the trial, the court said.

Binh, on the other hand, showed no remorse, it added.

He deliberately manipulated the Formosa incident to ignite protests and sabotage public security, it said.

Formosa was the culprit behind a severe toxic spill along Vietnam’s central coast in April 2016. During a test run, the  company discharged substances including phenol, cyanide and iron hydroxide into the sea,  polluting 200 kilometers (125 miles) of coastline and devastating economies dependent on fishing and tourism. 

The incident has been described as the worst environmental disaster in the country’s history, and officials say it will take the region a decade to recover from.

The Taiwanese operator agreed to pay $500 million in compensation in June 2016.

The court said Binh had also previously made anti-government statements on Facebook by calling for a multi-party system, while spreading defamatory and distorted information about authorities, Nghe An Newspaper reported.

In December 2015, he was fined VND24 million (more than $1,000) for distributing leaflets to recruit members for an “independent” organization in Ho Chi Minh City. He was charged with breaching regulations relating to the publication of printed material, but did not pay the penalty.

Vietnam jailed several people for anti-government campaigns last year, although Binh's 14-year sentence is one of the toughest handed down.

Last week, a 54-year-old doctor received four years behind bars for publishing articles against the Party and the state on his blog and Facebook page.

Last year, four bloggers were also sentenced to between six and nine years in jail for similar violations.

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