EU urges Vietnam to release jailed blogger

11th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton Thursday demanded Vietnam respect freedom of expression and immediately release a French-Vietnamese blogger, who is an EU citizen.

"I am seriously concerned about the sentencing" of Pham Minh Hoang, a French and Vietnamese national, sentenced to three years behind bars at a trial Wednesday in Ho Chi Minh City, Ashton said.

"This sentence, which follows the imprisonment of other democracy activists in the past weeks, is not consistent with the fundamental right of all persons to hold opinions and freely and peacefully express them," she said in a statement.

"I call on Vietnam to respect the right to freedom of expression, in accordance with its international obligations, and to release Professor Hoang, a citizen of the EU, and other detained human rights defenders immediately."

The 56-year-old, the latest peaceful democracy advocate convicted in Vietnam, was accused of "blackening the image of the country" in a series of articles under the pen name Phan Kien Quoc.

France has called for the verdict to be reconsidered and media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) too called for a halt to a "dangerous" trend in "Chinese-style" censorship.

RSF said Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, recently handed a second term, "has instigated a crackdown that bodes ill for journalists, bloggers and free speech defenders".

Hoang has already spent one year in custody, which will count towards his jail sentence. This will be followed by a further three years of house arrest.

Dozens of peaceful political critics have been sentenced to long prison terms since Vietnam launched a crackdown on free expression in late 2009, according to Amnesty International.

© 2011 AFP

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