A prominent Vietnamese blogger arrested nine months ago after he published articles critical of the government will face trial next week on charges of “abusing democratic freedoms,” according to an official indictment his family received Tuesday.
Truong Duy Nhat, 50, was taken into custody on May 26 after police searched his home in Da Nang city on the South Central Coast of Vietnam in what was widely seen as part of a crackdown by authorities on online dissent in the one party communist state.
On Tuesday, Nhat’s family received an official indictment dated Dec. 17 of last year from the office of Vietnam’s Supreme People’s Prosecutor informing them of his official charges.
“Journalist Truong Duy Nhat, known for his blog ‘Another Viewpoint,’ is to face charges of ‘abusing democratic freedoms to encroach upon the interests of the state, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens’,” reads the indictment, which the blogger’s family posted online.
“His trial is scheduled for March 3 at 8:00 a.m. in Danang city.”
Nhat was charged under Article 258 of Vietnam’s Penal Code, which carries a maximum penalty of three years in jail if convicted.
The indictment also provided details of why Nhat had been arrested and charged.
“On May 15, 2013 … a telecommunications corporation [internet service provider] sent authorities an official letter along with documents stating that [Nhat’s website] carried many essays vilifying the leaders of the party and the government regarding their management of the nation, with many pessimistic views about the country’s situation,” the document reads.
It said a total of 12 essays were posted from 2009 to 2013 “fabricating information about the policies of the party and the government … affecting the people’s trust in the leadership of the party.”
“The Da Nang Information and Telecommunication Department had warned Truong Duy Nhat several times from 2011 to 2012 about the contents of his blog,” the indictment said.
“During the investigation process, Truong Duy Nhat admitted he wrote and chose what to post on his blog, but did not admit doing anything wrong or any law violation.”
The indictment added that the charges against Nhat were based on evidence obtained by police following the seizure of a laptop, a cell phone, a SIM card, and a USB thumbdrive, though it did not provide details about what content was found on the devices.
A former journalist at state-run newspapers—including one run by the Da Nang police force—Nhat had quit his work as a reporter in 2010 to write for his blog “Another Viewpoint,” which became widely known for its criticism of the government.
The blog has been inaccessible since his detention.
In his posts, Nhat had called for the resignation of top officials, including the prime minister.
In the weeks leading up to his arrest he had conducted an online opinion poll ahead of a first-ever confidence vote on senior officials that the country’s parliament held at a session in June last year.
The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) has decried an “escalating assault” on freedom of expression in Vietnam, and has said that Nhat’s detention “illustrates an ongoing crackdown on bloggers” in the country.
Vietnam came under criticism at the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva earlier this month for the harassment and jailing of bloggers and government critics during the Universal Periodic Review—a process each U.N. member country undergoes every four years.
A day after the Geneva review, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said in a report that Vietnam's crackdown on independent bloggers has intensified.
Vietnam is second only to China for the number of journalists jailed, according to CPJ's annual prison census.