Truong Duy Nhat, 50, was found to have "abused his freedoms
to infringe upon the state's interest" in posts on his blog, the
last of which was in May last year, when he criticized the
procedure for Vietnam first-ever parliamentary censure motion.
The sentence comes as part of a widening crackdown on Vietnamese
who have criticized various government issues, despite free
speech being guaranteed under the constitution and the country
being awarded a seat last year on the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Most arrests and jail terms have involved bloggers or activists
who posted comments on the Internet, which is used by a third of
Vietnam's 90 million people and is one of only a few available
channels for dissent in a country where protests are rare and
the media is tightly controlled by the state.
Nhat quit his journalist job in 2010 and ran a blog titled
"Truong Duy Nhat — a different viewpoint" that was known for
criticism of top government officials including Prime Minister
Nguyen Tan Dung.
Nhat was arrested after commenting on the level of scrutiny in
the National Assembly's inaugural censure motion, which did not
give lawmakers an option to cast "no confidence" votes against
scores of officials that included the prime minister, president
and central bank governor.
Nhat told the court he was innocent in his final remarks before
sentencing in the central city of Danang, according to his
lawyer Tran Vu Hai.
The verdict could further complicate efforts by the United
States to boost trade and military ties with Vietnam and turn a
former war foe into a new ally in a region where China's sphere
of influence is expanding.
It was delivered on the same day as a visit to Vietnam by United
States Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy
The United States embassy issued a statement calling for Vietnam
to free Nhat and all other political prisoners and "allow all
Vietnamese to peacefully express their political views".
(Writing by Martin Petty; editing by Robert Birsel)
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