Catholic blogger, assistant indicted for critical essays on Vietnam

(Photo: REUTERS / Kham)Catholic nuns attend an ordination ceremony at the Citeaux Chau Son abbey in Vietnam's Ninh Binh province, 120 km (75 miles) south of Hanoi, April 29, 2012. Vietnam is home to the second largest Catholic population in Asia after the Philippines.

Vietnamese authorities have charged a Catholic blogger and his assistant who have been placed under detention for more than six month after publishing critical essays against the government.

The blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh, 58, and his assistant Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, 34, had been indicted by State prosecutors for "abuse of freedom and democracy to violate the interests of the State."

The two were arrested in May in Hanoi.

Authorities detained them for essays they published that, according to State media, that "tarnish[ed] the prestige" of the State apparatus.

Should they get convicted of the crime, the two could face a sentence of up to seven years in prison, the Catholic agency reported.

Vinh's lawyer Ha Huy Son castigated the situation of his client, saying his detention violates the basic laws of the land.

"First, the police arrested them, then they went in search of evidence," the lawyer told Radio Free Asia in an interview.

Human rights lawyer Trinh Huu Long said both bloggers stand no chance against Vietnam's legal system. He said it was apparent the case is headed straight to a conviction.

But Long noted that an obscure treaty that Hanoi committed to at the United Nations could pave the way for the release of the bloggers if it adheres to its international commitments.

"We can use this mechanism to launch a campaign at the United Nations," Long explained.

He said he sought assistance from the embassies of the European Union and Australia to apply pressure on Hanoi.

The Vietnamese government has been intolerant of dissent in recent years, targeting bloggers, religious leaders and other activists as well as communities and individuals in them.

Last year, authorities through the State-controlled media mounted a smear campaign against the Bishop of Vinh, Paul Nguyên Thai Hop, and some of the faithful in his diocese.

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