November 15, 2019 / 7:41 AM / 23 days ago

Vietnam jails music teacher for 11 years over 'anti-state' Facebook posts

HANOI (Reuters) - A court in Vietnam jailed a music teacher for 11 years on Friday for a series of posts on Facebook that the government said were “anti-state”.

Despite sweeping economic reform and increasing openness to social change, Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party retains tight media censorship and does not tolerate criticism.

Nguyen Nang Tinh, 43, was accused of “making and spreading anti-state information and materials” at the one-day trial at the People’s Court in the northern-central province of Nghe An, Nguyen Van Mieng, Tinh’s lawyers said.

“At the trial, Tinh said the accusation was not true as this Facebook account didn’t belong to him,” said Mieng.

“The prosecutors stuck to the idea that the Facebook user named Nguyen Nang Tinh and my client Nguyen Nang Tinh are the same person”.

Tinh, who teaches music at a provincial college, was arrested in May after he was found writing and sharing anti-state posts and videos on his Facebook account, police said in a statement.

Late last month, a 54-year-old architect was jailed for 12 months over the accusations he uploaded anti-government posts to his Facebook account, police said in a separate statement on the department’s website.

Facebook is widely used in the Southeast Asian country and serves as the main platform for both e-commerce and dissent. In January, Vietnam accused Facebook of violating the law by allowing users to post anti-government comments.

The U.S. social media giant said in May that it had increased the amount of content it restricted access to in Vietnam by more than 500% in the last half of 2018.

“Nguyen Nang Tinh is the latest in a long line of dissidents targeted for posting information and criticism on Facebook,” John Sifton, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Thursday, ahead of the trial.

Tinh would be placed under house arrest for five years after serving his jail term, his lawyer said.

Reporting by Phuong Nguyen; Editing by James Pearson

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