International officials and organizations are calling for the release of French-Vietnamese blogger Pham Minh Hoang, who was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison for subversion.
Vietnamese officials accused him of publishing 33 anti-government articles on the Internet, and is connected to Viet Tan, a U.S.-based pro-democracy group that is banned in Vietnam.
"He was charged under national security legislation, which is very vaguely worded, and could be interpreted in almost any way," says Janice Beanland, Vietnam campaigner for Amnesty International.
The human rights organization, along with the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, the French Foreign Ministry and the U.S. State Department have condemned Hoang's sentence. On Thursday, European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton issued a statement calling for the activist's release.
"According to the authorities, he had been blogging, sending messages, he had been, I think, they have characterized him as being critical of government policies, when he was in fact exercising his right to free expression, to free speech by expressing his opinions," Beanland says.
The 56-year-old professor lived in France for several years and is maintains dual French and Vietnamese citizenship. Hoang's wife believes her husband was arrested for opposing a Chinese-run bauxite mine in the Central Highlands. Environmental activists say the mine has damaged the region.
Amnesty International's Janice Beanland says Hoang should be released immediately.
"We consider him to be a prisoner of conscience, as we call it, and he should be released and all the charges against him dropped."
She adds Amnesty is looking to the Vietnam's new government, in place since the beginning of August, and hoping leaders will reconsider the country's harsh policies towards human rights and freedom expression to avoid futher international isolation.