Son, a blogger and contributor to the news websites Vietnam Redemptorist News and Bao Khong Le (Newspaper Without Lanes), was arrested in front of his home in the capital, Hanoi. News reports citing a witness said that police knocked him to the ground from his motorcycle, grabbed his arms and legs, and threw him into a police vehicle.
Son was initially detained on unspecified charges under Article 79 of the penal code, which outlines penalties for activities aimed at overthrowing the government. He was also accused of membership in the outlawed, exile-run Viet Tan party.
In a two-day trial that concluded on January 9, 2013, a court in the city of Vinh sentenced Son to 13 years in prison and five years’ house arrest on charges of participating in “activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration,” “undermining of national unity,” and disseminating “propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” news reports said. On May 23, 2013, Son’s prison sentence was reduced to four years’ imprisonment and four years’ house arrest by the Appeal Court of the Supreme People’s Court.
Months before his arrest, Son had posted a number of entries on his blog about anti-China protests and territorial disputes with China. His work also focused on land disputes, government harassment of pro-democracy and Catholic Church activists, police abuse, and discrimination against HIV patients. He was also briefly detained in April 2011 after attempting to report on the court hearing for pro-democracy dissident Cu Huy Ha Vu.
On July 18, 2013, Son was severely beaten by prison guards at Ha Nam province’s Nam Ha prison, according to the international human rights group Front Line Defenders. He was denied medical treatment for his injuries, including a broken leg, and was placed in solitary confinement, the group reported. After a prison visit on August 21, 2013, Son’s family said he was still in pain from his injuries and had difficulty walking, according to Front Line Defenders. He was still being held at Nam Ha prison in late 2014. No new details of his health had been disclosed.