The spokesperson of Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the Commission issued the following statement Monday 24. September.
“The High Representative expresses her serious concern over the sentencing of bloggers Nguyen Van Hai, Ta Phong Tan and Phan Thanh Hai, to 12, 10 and 4 years of imprisonment respectively followed by 5, 3 and 3 years of probation, at the recent trial in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
The EU recalls the fundamental right of all persons to hold and freely express their opinions in a peaceful manner, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Vietnam is a party.
The sentences in this case appear to be particularly severe. While expressing goodwill and her appreciation of the increasingly positive EU-Vietnam partnership, the High Representative calls on Vietnam to respect its international obligations and to release the convicted bloggers immediately.”
All three bloggers belongs to the outlawed Free Journalists Network of Vietnam (FJNV).
Nguyen Van Hai who was sentenced 12 years imprisonment is well known for his critiques on China, such as reporting on demonstrations against the 2008 Beijing Olympic torch relay. According to FJNV, he has been kept behind bars even after serving out his sentence on trumped-up charges of tax evasion.
Ta Phong Tan was arrested in October 2010 under a provisional order, and held without charge ever since, says the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Although he finished his legal studies in 2008 and fulfilled all requirements to become a lawyer, his application was turned down by the Justice Ministry because of his involvement in protests and his blogging activities. He also wrote about Vietnam’s relations with China.
Phan Thanh Hai a former police officer who documented social injustice on her blog Justice and Truth (http://conglysuthat.blogspot.ca/ ), was arrested in September 2011, reports CPJ.
Human Rights Watch has translated excerpts from their blogs. Read them here.