Hanoi – Le Quoc Quan, 41, has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for tax evasion, a charge many human rights groups say is trumped up.
Vietnam converted to the free market before 1991, but the repression of journalists in the country remains constant. The case against Quan was conducted in a court that is constantly labeled as not meeting the international standards for fair trials by human rights groups.
The one-day trial was accessible to press and diplomats through a closed-circuit TV system, which was intermittently cut off, leaving journalists and human rights groups blind and deaf. The comparison to the Bradley Manning trial in the United States was immediately made.
While the Unites States Embassy is pressing Hanoi and condemning the trial of Quan, who is a U.S. trained lawyer, the condemnations are likely to be ignored as many view the United States as lacking the moral authority to make such statements in light of the prosecution of whistleblowers and attempts to regulate the press occurring in Washington, D.C.
In an interview with the Associated Press last year, Quan said he believed he was under government surveillance, but pledged to continue speaking out in favor of a multi-party system and freedom of religion. Quan ran a blog that documented human rights abuses in his country, and focused on the plight of the catholic minority.
Human rights groups say that Quan is one of 46 journalists and activists jailed this year for speaking out against Hanoi.