On March 30, 2016, the Hồ Chí Minh City People’s Court sentenced blogger Nguyễn Ngọc Già, 48, to a four-year prison term with another three years on probation for carrying out “propaganda against the state” according to article 88 of the penal code.
Già, who was born Nguyễn Dinh Ngọc, was arrested in December 2014 at his home in the No. 7 district of Hồ Chí Minh City’s Tân Phong commune according to an announcement on the city’s official police website. He was a regular contributor to Radio Free Asia among other websites, including Dân Làm Báo (The People’s Journal) and Dân Luận (The People’s Opinion).
According to Vietnamese state media, the blogger posted essays critical of the government and the party. The prosecutor’s report claims he submitted 26 articles to various websites from February to December of 2014. Of those, 14 were published. Prosecutors say they found 22 articles defaming and discrediting party leaders and the state.
Tuổi Trẻ Online quoted the jury as saying he was only given four years because his father is a 50-year party member while his grandmother is regarded as a hero mother who helped the communist revolution in Vietnam.
Human rights groups allege Article 88 is often used by authorities to imprison peaceful activists. Già began contributing to RFA in early 2013, explaining that he felt RFA was the most reliable news source in Vietnam and best suited to his work. He provided weekly blog entries, which concluded in December 2014 just two weeks before his arrest. In its ruling to sentence Già, the court mentioned RFA, saying that “many of his articles were sent to RFA.”
On October 5, 2016, the People’s Court reduced his sentence from four to three years served in jail with an additional three years on probation instead of the four-year prison term and three-year probation period he was sentenced to by the same court in March. Hà Huy Sơn, Già’s attorney, told RFA, “they said the reason is for mercy, and that his family had helped the government.” Già’s mother sheltered Northern troops during the Vietnam War against the US-backed South, and his soldier sister was jailed by the Americans during the conflict that ended in 1975, according to Chanelnewsasia.com.
Giá’s attorney confirmed in January 2017 that he was moved from Bố Lá prison in the Bến Cát district of Bình Dương province to the prison camp in Xuân Lộc, Đồng Nai province.