“The accused are completely innocent, and their arrest is a blatant violation of the Vietnamese constitution and international laws,” said Nguyen Quang A, one of the country’s most prominent dissidents.
Dung has written for popular dissident blogs in Vietnam, as well as the BBC and Voice of America, a Washington-based news organisation that receives funding from the US government.
He was arrested in late 2019 after he issued a petition urging the European Union not to ratify a free-trade agreement with Vietnam that it had signed a few months earlier. He said that his country should first improve its human rights record and its treatment of journalists.
The Ho Chi Minh City court said that Dung had started the independent journalists association as a way of inciting people to defame the Communist Party, local news outlets reported on Tuesday.
The three sentences were handed down weeks before Vietnam holds the biggest event on its political calendar: the Communist Party’s national congress, which meets every five years to select the country’s top leaders.