Vietnam Jails Environmental Blogger For Livestreaming A Protest

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A court in Vietnam imprisoned Hoang Duc Binh, an environmental blogger, for 14 years for leading protests, abusing his democratic freedom and opposing officials.

Vietnamese activist Hoang Duc Binh was convicted of abusing democratic freedom and opposing officers on duty after he led several protests against a Taiwan-owned steel plant called Formosa Plastics Corp. in 2016. 

The 34-year-old activist was given a 14 year sentence for infringing on the interests of the state, organization and the people by “the people’s court” in Nghe An province.

The environmental blogger, commonly known as Hoang Binh, was reportedly livestreaming a group of fishermen who were marching to file a lawsuit against the steel plant that spilled toxins, such as cyanide and phenol, into the ocean during a test run.

The chemical spill was reportedly one of the country’s worst environmental disasters, as it killed massive amounts of fish and rare species of sea life along with destroying the 125-mile coastline. The fishermen’s businesses were badly affected by the disaster, along with tourism in four provinces of the state. Much of the country’s income depends on seafood export.   

Meanwhile, the plant owner reportedly paid $500 million in compensation for the disaster its waste inflicted upon hundreds of lives. 

Such a massive disaster sparked a number of protests. Binh’s lawyer Ha Huy Son said the activist testified that during the livestream he commented on authorities beating the fishermen.

He had also allegedly posted the footage on social media.

However, the court said his comments were not true and meant to defame the authorities behind the plant.

Binh denied the allegations, insisting his statement was true.

Binh’s fellow activist Nguyen Nam Phong was also sentenced to two years in jail.

“Binh said he was innocent, while Phong asked for a reduction of the sentence ... The trial was conducted without evidence and objectivity; it was imposed,” Son said.

According to Reuters, the 14-year jail term is one of the toughest sentences to imposed on an activist in Vietnam.

“The sentences have been more and more severe, perhaps because of weaker interventions from the outsiders and foreigners, and also because the power holders think this sentence could have deterrence effect,” said Son.

Absurdly, over the past month, at least eight people have been arrested for “spreading propaganda” against the state. International human rights groups and foreign leaders have criticized Vietnam for punishing people who want to peacefully express their views.

 

Thumbnail/Banner Credit: VNA/Bich Hue/Reuters

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