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Vietnam imprisons 65-year-old veteran for blogging

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The Vietnamese government, resoundingly condemned for imprisoning bloggers, has reached a new low.

A court has sentenced Ngo Hao, a 65-year-old veteran, to 15 years in prison.

Ngo has been accused of circulating false information about Vietnamese leaders for a four-year period from 2008-2012. The court heard that he had tried to inspire a Vietnamese version of the Arab Spring—a nonviolent overthrow of the government. Ngo was convicted of violating Article 79, which criminalizes “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration.”

His son, Ngo Minh Tam, told Radio Free Asia that all charges stemmed from his father's online writing on behalf of fellow dissidents.

"He has always argued that his activities were not wrong, and that the only thing ‘wrong’ is that they have not been accepted by the government,” he said, adding that his father's health is failing.

Reporters Without Borders, a nonprofit organization dedicated to tracking free speech worldwide, said it was "appalled" at the conviction, and noted that "the court did not allow Hao to exercise his right to a fair defence."

Vietnam has an estimated 36 bloggers behind bars; by Reporters Without Borders’ count, that's more than any country but China.

In a heartbreaking open letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Ngo's wife declared that "my husband did not do nothing wrong," and simply spoke his conscience.

Photo by martingarri/Flickr, remix by Fernando Alfonso III