Vietnamese blogger Pham Viet Dao will go on trial Wednesday to face charges of ‘abusing democratic freedoms to infringe on the interests of the state.’
The 62 year-old blogger was arrested in Hanoi last June for allegedly “abusing democratic freedoms” under Vietnam’s controversial Article 258, which provides up to three years in prison.
A lawyer in Hanoi who wished to stay anonymous told VOA's Vietnamese service that Dao has decided to defend himself. “If the verdict at the trial is not reasonable, Dao will hire a lawyer for the appeals trial,” the lawyer said.
Earlier this month, Vietnamese blogger and journalist Truong Duy Nhat was jailed for two years for posting articles critical of the Communist government and its leaders. He was found guilty of the same broad anti-state charges.
The U.S. government and human rights groups expressed concern at the sentence. According to Human Rights Watch, Vietnam convicted and jailed 61 dissidents and activists in 2013, compared to about 40 a year earlier.
Vietnam repeatedly has said it does not jail prisoners of conscience, only those who violate the law.
Recent cases against bloggers highlight a new generation of political activism in Vietnam, a country of 32 million Internet users out of a population of about 90 million.
More than 70 percent of the country’s Internet population uses Facebook, and despite being sporadically blocked by some Internet providers, the social network has become a vibrant platform for the country’s political bloggers.