A Haiphong city court sentenced online writer Nghien on January 29, 2010, to four years in prison and three years of house arrest on charges of spreading anti-state propaganda. She was arrested when more than 20 police officers raided her home during a September 2008 crackdown on dissidents.
Nghien was originally charged with staging a protest at her home, erecting banners protesting government policy in a maritime dispute involving China, and posting the images on the Internet. But state prosecutors dropped the charges and instead singled out an online article she had written for international media in which she criticized public officials for siphoning off compensation funds intended for survivors of fishermen killed by Chinese maritime patrols in 2007, according to international news reports.
Nghien was also accused of criticizing the government in interviews with Western media outlets, including the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia. Her half-day trial was closed to international media and diplomats, news reports said. She was held in solitary confinement until her sentencing in January 2010.
On July 4, 2008, before her arrest, Nghien was severely beaten by four plainclothes police officers who threatened her and her family if she continued her outspoken criticism of government policies, according to Front Line, a human rights group. Nghien wrote several online articles in promotion of human rights, democracy, and better treatment of landless peasants, according to international news reports.