Vietnam Reduces Prison Sentence for Blogger

A court in Ho Chi Minh City sliced a year off of the jail sentence of a blogger critical of the government partly because his family was loyal to the Communist Party during the Vietnam War, his lawyer told RFA's Vietnamese Service.

Blogger Nguyen Ngoc Gia now faces a three year jail term with an additional three years on probation instead of the four-year prison term and three-year probation period he was sentenced to by the same court in March.

"They said the reason is for mercy, and that his family had helped the government," his attorney Ha Huy Son told RFA.

Ha Huy Son said the blogger, whose real name in Nguyen Dinh Ngoc, is also suffering health problems.

"He said he wanted to be freed because he has a lot of illness during the time in jail," Ha Huy Son told RFA. "He also said that he was not against the state, but that he only expressed his dismay with the current situation."

Ngoc's mother sheltered Northern troops during the Vietnam War against the US-backed South, and his soldier sister was jailed by the Americans during the conflict that ended in 1975, according to Chanelnewsasia.com

Several of his family members also died in the war and his father was a long-term member of the Communist Party.

In March the court sentenced the blogger to a four-year prison term with another three years on probation for carrying out "propaganda against the state" according to article 88 of the penal code.

He was arrested in December 2014 at his home in Ho Chi Minh City. He was a regular contributor to Radio Free Asia, among other websites.

According to state media, the blogger posted essays critical of the government and the party on the Internet.

The prosecutor's report claims he submitted 26 articles to various websites from February to December of 2014. Of those, 14 were published. Prosecutors say they found 22 articles defaming and discrediting party leaders and the state.

Article 88 of Vietnam's criminal code carries a maximum penalty of 20 years' imprisonment for the ill-defined offence of "anti-state propaganda." Human rights groups that claim Article 88 is used to imprison peaceful activists in the one-party communist nation.

While private media is banned in Vietnam and all television and newspapers are controlled by the government, bloggers and activists have used social media in recent years to voice anti-government views.

Vietnam ranks 175 out of 180 on Reporters Without Borders' press freedom index.

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