Vietnam jails prominent blogger for 'anti-state activities'

Dissident blogger Pham Viet Dao, standing at centre, appears at a court in Hanoi, Vietnam Wednesday, 19 March 2014 Mr Dao, centre, who was arrested last year, said his posts did not impact badly on society

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A court in Vietnam has jailed a prominent blogger for 15 months for anti-state activities, the second sentencing of a blogger in recent days.

Pham Viet Dao, 62, was found guilty of "abusing democratic freedoms to infringe the interests of the state".

Mr Dao apologised in court for some "erroneous" information, but said his posts did not impact badly on society.

His blog ran posts critical of the government and sensitive issues like the territorial row with China.

Mr Dao was arrested last year. He previously worked for the culture ministry and is a member of the Vietnam Writers Association.

His sentencing came after another popular blogger, Truong Duy Nhat, was also jailed for two years on the same charges a few days ago.

"The defendant's acts are dangerous to the society, causing anxiety among the public and reducing people's trust in the leadership of the [Communist] Party and the state," Judge Ngo Tu Hoc was quoted by AP news agency as saying.

Critics say that abusing democratic rights, as stipulated in Article 258 of Vietnam's Criminal Code, is a very vague charge, says the BBC's Nga Pham.

But the Vietnamese government has been using this to detain and jail dozens of writers and bloggers in the last two years, our correspondent adds.

Rights group Human Rights Watch, based in New York, on Tuesday urged Vietnam to drop the case against Mr Dao.

"The Vietnamese authorities are shaming themselves before domestic and international public opinion by staging yet another political trial of a peaceful critic," Brad Adams, Asia director, said in a statement.

He added that Mr Dao's only crime has been "to use the internet to voice opinions shared by many Vietnamese".

All newspapers and television channels in Vietnam are state-run and operate under strict regulations.

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