Human Rights Watch has called for the release of a human rights activist and blogger facing a possible lengthy prison term in Vietnam for allegedly publishing and distributing anti-government material.
Pham Van Diep, 51, is set to face trial on Nov. 26, in northern Thanh Hoa Province on charges of violating Article 117 of Vietnam’s penal code by posting, liking, and sharing information on Facebook that seeks to undermine the communist government, the New York-based rights group said.
In a statement, HRW said that Pham Van Diep was arrested in June after posting and sharing news on social and political issues such as land confiscation, police brutality and corruption. He also criticized the country’s cyber security law and urged the government to hold free elections.
“Article 117 … is designed to muffle dissenting voices, and this is the 14th Facebook member prosecuted in 2019 for violating it,” according to John Sifton, HRW’s Asia advocacy director.
“Concerned governments and social media companies need to speak out against this abusive law,” he said.
According to HRW, Pham Van Diep, is a longtime human rights advocate and critic of the Vietnamese government and has repeatedly used blogs, and later his Facebook account, to address human rights abuses and support other human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists.
Prior to his arrest Pham Van Diep had attempted to leave Vietnam for Russia in April but was stopped at the airport and told he was on a list of people not allowed to leave the country. He filed an unsuccessful lawsuit against the police for keeping him in Vietnam.
On May 26, he responded by writing: “The Vietnamese people must be allowed to enjoy the rights enshrined in the International Covenant [on Civil and Political Rights] and in Vietnam’s constitution and law. It is a legitimate demand. Men who abuse power will not be able to crush us.”