Bangkok, March 9, 2020 — Vietnamese authorities should not contest the appeal of journalist Truong Duy Nhat and should release him immediately from prison, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
This morning, a Hanoi court sentenced Nhat, a blogger with the U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Asia’s Vietnamese language service, to ten years in prison after a half-day trial for “abusing his position and power while on duty” as a reporter, a crime under Clause 3, Article 356, of Vietnam’s penal code, according to news reports, a report from his employer, and his daughter Thuc Doan Truong, who communicated with CPJ via messaging app.
Nhat had been held in pre-trial detention in Vietnam since January 28, 2019, two days after he went missing from a shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand, as CPJ documented at the time. Truong previously told CPJ that she believes Nhat was taken from Thailand against his will.
Truong told CPJ that her father intends to appeal today’s verdict.
“Truong Duy Nhat was convicted for his journalism, not the bogus charges Vietnamese authorities dreamt up to silence his critical voice,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “His appeal must not be contested, and he should be released immediately and unconditionally. Vietnam must stop jailing journalists on arbitrary and trumped-up charges.”
Nhat’s last blog post before his arrest, dated January 23, 2019, was a commentary on protests in Venezuela and prospects for change in Vietnam. Nhat had applied for refugee status at a U.N. office in Bangkok on January 25, Radio Free Asia reported at the time.
Police initially charged Nhat with illegally acquiring property, but later changed those charges after failing to find enough evidence to convict him, according to Radio Free Asia.
“No matter how long they want to imprison my dad, I’m sure that he did nothing wrong,” Truong told CPJ. “[Today’s sentencing] is just an excuse for them to stop him from writing critical articles.”
Nhat previously served two years in prison for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe on the interest of the state,” for his critical blogging on the ruling Communist Party’s leadership, CPJ reported at the time.
He is currently being held at Hanoi’s T-16 detention center; it was not immediately clear if he would be transferred to another detention facility after today’s verdict, Truong told CPJ.
Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security did not immediately respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on today’s ruling.