A Vietnamese court sentenced a Catholic blogger to 10 years in prison for propaganda against the Communist government. Rights activists described the sentence as "heavy and inhumane."
Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, 37, also known as "Mother Mushroom," was tried at the People's Court of Khanh Hoa province in Nha Trang City on 29 June, ucanews.com reported.
UN human rights experts said on 30 June in Geneva that the trial did not meet international standards and appeared to be aimed at intimidating activists.
"This was little short of a show trial, designed to intimidate other environmental activists," the experts said. "The trial did not meet international standards. She has been denied her fundamental right to due process."
They said they feared that the government is increasingly targeting bloggers and organisers of peaceful protests to prevent civil and environmental activism.
Several lawyers supported Quynh via social media, saying the sentence is too "heavy and inhumane."
"I am really surprised by the 10-year sentence that shows the government's inhumanity to a single young mother," Catholic lawyer Le Cong Dinh said. "I did not realise what a state of panic the ruling party is in."
Just three of the five lawyers Quynh had requested were present at the trial. Her lawyers demanded the trial be postponed, but the judges rejected the appeal. One lawyer was refused the opportunity to meet with Quynh before the trial.
Sources said the judges did not listen to the lawyers' arguments and handed down an arranged sentence.
Quynh, a co-founder of a network of bloggers, was found guilty of "conducting propaganda against the communist government" under Article 88 of the Criminal Law.
The government indictment accused Quynh of Facebook posts from 2012 to 2016 "criticizing and deforming the Communist Party's policies and history, and dividing national solidarity."
She posted a document titled "Stop police killing civilians" about 31 cases of people who had died while in police detention.
Quynh also was accused of conducting campaigns for freedom, democracy and human rights in 2015, denying the party's leadership and giving interviews to foreign news agencies where she spoke badly about the government.
During the court hearing, lawyers argued that Quynh did not violate any laws "because she expressed her own opinions on Facebook that conformed to the rules."
Quynh's mother, Nguyen Thi Tuyet Lan, was not permitted to enter the courtroom and watched the trial through a screen in a nearby room. She wrote on Facebook that the heavy sentence aims to take revenge against her daughter who tried to tell the truth.
Lan said she and Quynh's two young children had only met with Quynh for five minutes before the trial since she was arrested on 10 October 2016.
"Every person has only one life. But if I had to replay my life, I would still have done the same thing. I believe my mother and children will never feel sorry for me but be proud of me," Quynh said in court.
"I want to build a good society. People can only be happy and free when they enjoy freedom of speech and expression," Quynh said. "I hope people will continue the struggle and overcome their fears to build a better country."