Ngoc was first arrested after police searched his home in southern Ho Chi Minh City. He was held in pretrial detention for 15 months before his conviction. On March 30, 2016, Ho Chi Minh City’s People’s Court sentenced him to four years in prison and three years’ probation under Article 88 of the penal code, which carries maximum penalties of 20 years in prison for “propagandizing” against the state.
Judges ruled that 22 articles, 14 of which were published online, defamed Communist Party leaders and the state, news reports said. Ngoc is a frequent contributor to the independent blog sites Lam Bao Dan (“People’s Newspaper”) and Dan Luan (“People’s Opinion”). He was also a frequent contributor to Radio Free Asia, reports said.
Weeks before his arrest, Ngoc highlighted in blog posts and comments to Radio Free Asia the cases of recently detained fellow bloggers Nguyen Quang Lap and Hong Le Tho on anti-state charges of “abusing democratic freedoms.” (Lap and Tho were later released.) Ngoc had also posted about Ta Phong Tan, a blogger who at the time was serving a 10-year sentence for “disseminating anti-state propaganda” and who had staged a hunger strike to protest her mistreatment in prison.
Ngoc told Radio Free Asia in a mid-December interview: “As we reach the end of 2014, many prisoners of conscience are suffering from harassment and torture … and despite the fact that the government has ratified the international convention against torture, there has been no improvement.” Press reports said Ngoc also complained in a blog post before his arrest that his Gmail and Facebook accounts had been hacked.
On October 4, 2016, an appellate court reduced his prison sentence from four to three years. Ngoc’s lawyer, Ha Huy Son, told reporters that the reduction was granted because of Ngoc’s family ties to the ruling Communist Party. The court upheld the three year probationary period, which will restrict Ngoc from leaving his residential compound in Ho Chi Minh City after fully serving his prison term.
Son said that Ngoc requested early release because he was suffering from undisclosed health problems since being imprisoned. In 2016, Ngoc was put in solitary confinement, shackled and not allowed to bathe or wash his clothes, according to a Dan Luan report that quoted his family. Prison authorities also refused to deliver food supplies provided to him by his family, the report said.
In January 2017, he was transferred from Bo La prison in Binh Duong province to Xuan Loc prison in Dong Nai province, according to a Radio Free Asia report that quoted his lawyer, Ha Huy Son.