HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — A prominent Vietnamese blogger who is a former police officer and the son of a late government minister went on trial Wednesday for alleged anti-state postings.
Nguyen Huu Vinh and his assistant, Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, are accused of abusing democratic freedoms to infringe on the interests of the state
Vinhh, 59, and Thuy, 35, went on trial Wednesday in Hanoi, Vietnam's capital. They have been in jail since they were arrested in May 2014.
Vinh, better known as Anh Ba Sam, was a police officer with the Ministry of Public Security in Hanoi. He quit in 1999 and set up a private investigation firm. His father was a government minister and Vietnam's ambassador to the former Soviet Union.
In 2007, Vinh set up the Ba Sam blog. He later launched two others — Dan Quyen, or Citizens' Rights, in 2013, and Chep Su Viet, or Writing Vietnamese History, in early 2014. The blogs provided links to news on political, social, economic and cultural issues from state media as well as activists.
Prosecutors said two dozen articles posted on Dan Quyen and Chep Su Viet had untruthful content and distort the policies of the ruling Communist Party. They said the articles "present a one-sided and pessimistic view, causing anxiety and worry, and affecting the people's confidence" in the party and government.
Prosecutors proposed jail terms of five to six years for Vinh, and two to three years for Thuy.
The two denied the charges.
"I deny that I have anything to do with these 24 articles," Vinh told the court.
Thuy told the court that she did not know who authored the writings or who posted them on the two blogs.
Their lawyers said there was no evidence to back the charges and the two should be freed.
"The 24 articles were collected illegally, they cannot be used as evidence," lawyer Tran Van Tao told the court.
Scores of Vinh's supporters gathered outside the court chanting "innocent."
International human rights groups and some Western governments, including the United States, have criticized Vietnam for jailing dissidents for peacefully expressing their views. Hanoi denies that, saying only those who break the law are put behind bars.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called for the release of both defendants. "The trial and continuing detention of a blogger and his assistant who have already spent almost two years in jail is farcical and a blight on the country's human rights record," Amnesty said in a statement.