Vietnam jails retired teacher for 14 years for 'attempted subversion'


A retired teacher was jailed Wednesday for 14 years for "attempting to overthrow the state", the latest in a series of convictions this week as communist Vietnam cracks down harder on critics.

Former primary school teacher Dao Quang Thuc, 58, was jailed after speaking out on Facebook about environmental issues and Vietnam's territorial dispute with Beijing in the South China Sea. His daughter told AFP he was not given a fair trial and insisted he is innocent.

"The trial today was not transparent. Not many people were allowed to attend and those present at the court were not objective," Dao Ngoc Bich Quynh Trang said after the brief hearing in Hoa Binh province west of Hanoi. She added that her father, who appeared weak on Wednesday, had been badly beaten after his arrest in October 2017.

"He was left without food, they beat him with shoes and he was sent to hospital for one week," she said.

Vietnam has one of the worst records in the region for jailing activists, lawyers and bloggers. It has targeted critics with impunity this year, with more than 40 convicted since January. Observers say a conservative leadership in charge since 2016 is driving the crackdown. Right groups accuse the United States and the European Union of doing little to speak out against it.

The sentence follows a series of convictions this week against demonstrators who took to the streets in June in protest at a proposed law to grant lengthy leases to foreign investors in special economic zones. In separate trials, six people -- including an independent journalist -- were handed jail terms of between 15 months and four years for causing public disorder. Another activist and blogger Ngo Van Dung was reported missing after he was allegedly picked up by police two weeks ago in Ho Chi Minh City, according to Reporters Without Borders.

His family has not seen him since and has no information on where he is. Amnesty International says there were at least 97 activists behind bars as of April in the one-party state, where all independent media and public protests are banned. Many in recent years have turned to social media to air grievances.

But a new cybersecurity law set to come into effect next year could threaten online activists by requiring companies like Facebook and Google to remove "toxic content" and hand over user data on request. Last week, rights campaigners from Amnesty and the International Federation for Human Rights were barred from entering the country for a regional economic forum.

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