The People’s Court in Ho Chi Minh City today passed sentence on three Christian bloggers in a case that has polarized the religious community and drawn international criticism.
Nguyen Van Hai and Marie Ta Phong Tan received sentences of 12 years and 10 years, respectively, with five additional years of house arrest, while Phan Thanh Hai received a four-year sentence and three years of house arrest.The bloggers were charged with spreading anti-government propaganda under Article 88 of the country’s criminal code. They were founding members of the Free Journalist Club, an organization not recognized as an official body by the government.
State media reports before today’s verdict said Phan Thanh Hai had “pleaded guilty and asked for a lenient sentence,” while the two other defendants “obstinately” denied the charges against them.
The United States embassy in Hanoi was quick to criticize the verdict.
“We are deeply concerned by reports that the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court convicted and sentenced blogger Dieu Cay [Nguyen Van Hai] to 12 years in prison for peacefully expressing his political views,” the embassy said in a statement today.