Truong Duy Nhat, a blogger with the U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Asia’s Vietnamese-language service, is serving a 10-year prison sentence for “abusing his position and power while on duty” as a reporter. He was sentenced in a half-day trial on March 9, 2020, and his appeal was denied that August.
Nhat was formally arrested in Vietnam on January 28, 2019, after being abducted in Thailand, and he was taken to Hanoi’s T-16 detention center, according to Radio Free Asia.
Nhat’s daughter, Thuc Doan Truong, told Radio Free Asia that she believed he was apprehended in Thailand on January 26, 2019, where he was living until his arrest, and sent to Vietnam against his will.
Two of Nhat’s associates, who spoke with CPJ on condition of anonymity due to fear of reprisal, said they suspect he was abducted by Vietnamese agents working in cooperation with Thai Special Branch police, and was driven across the Thai-Cambodian border and then on to Vietnam.
On June 10, 2019, the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security said it had launched a criminal investigation into Nhat for "abuse of power or position to appropriate property,” and disclosed that he was being held in Da Nang City, according to news reports.
That day, police searched Nhat’s house as part of an expanded investigation into fraud related to the management and use of public land committed by the jailed tycoon Phan Van Anh Vu and his accomplices, the reports said.
Nhat wrote a blog for RFA’s Vietnamese language service. His most recent commentary focused on the growing opposition movement in Venezuela and prospects for change in Vietnam.
Police initially charged Nhat with illegally acquiring property, but later changed those charges after failing to find enough evidence to convict him, Radio Free Asia reported in July 2019.
In September 2019, Nhat was indicted on charges of “taking advantage of his position and powers during the performance of his official duties,” a charge defined under Article 356 of the criminal code, which allows for prison sentences of up to 20 years, according to a Radio Free Asia report. Authorities alleged that he committed fraud in a property deal in 2004, when Nhat purchased land for the headquarters of the Dai Doan Ket newspaper, where he worked at the time, according to reports.
Nhat’s daughter Truong told CPJ via messaging app in December 2019 that Nhat had legal representation and that a trial had been set for November 15, but was canceled without explanation by authorities.
On March 9, 2020, Nhat was sentenced to 10 years in prison after a half-day trial for fraud by allegedly “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, Radio Free Asia, and his daughter Truong, who communicated with CPJ via messaging app.
On August 14, 2020, a court in Hanoi upheld his conviction in a one-day hearing, according to news reports and Truong. At the hearing, Nhat maintained his innocence and said he was the victim of political persecution, according to those reports. The court did not comment on Nhat’s abduction in Thailand and arrest in Vietnam, she said.
Truong told CPJ via messaging app that Nhat was being held at Nghe An Province’s Prison No. 3 in late September 2021. She said he is detained in a large cell with 49 other prisoners and must sleep on the floor in close proximity to other cell mates with approximately two square meters (2.4 square yards) of living space.
Truong said Nhat suffers from a herniated disc in his back, a pre-existing condition that has been aggravated due to mandatory manual labor he is forced to do from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., five days a week. She said he also suffers from allergies, which have become worse due to high levels of dust in the prison facility.
Nhat was previously arrested in Vietnam in 2013 and served two years in prison for "abusing democratic freedoms to infringe on the interest of the state," for his critical blogging on the Communist Party’s leadership, CPJ documented at the time.
He served as bureau chief of the local state-run Dai Doan Ket newspaper from 1998 to 2011, RFA reported.
Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security, which oversees the country’s prison system, did not respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on Nhat’s health and status in prison in late 2021.