Prominent Vietnam dissident arrested on anti-state charges

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnamese authorities arrested a prominent dissident and blogger on Wednesday, hours after Vietnam and the United States finished an annual human rights dialogue.

State media said Pham Doan Trang was arrested in Ho Chi Minh City and accused of “producing, possessing and spreading documents and materials to oppose the state of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”

The state-owned Thanh Nien newspaper said the charge is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Trang, 42, who used to be a journalist for several state media outlets, is known for her outspokenness on topics including gender equality, human rights and democracy.

She was among several activists who were invited in 2016 to meet with then-U.S. President Barack Obama when he visited Vietnam. She was absent at the meeting and later said on Facebook that Vietnamese security personnel prevented her from attending.

Human Rights Watch condemned Trang’s arrest. “Every day she spends behind bars is a grave injustice that violates Vietnam’s international human rights commitments and brings dishonor to the government,” the group’s deputy Asia director, Phil Robertson, said in a statement.

Vietnam’s Communist government does not tolerate dissent. A number of democracy activists are arrested and jailed each year.

The U.S. and Vietnam held their annual human rights dialogue in a virtual session on Tuesday. The U.S. said the three-hour talks addressed the importance of progress in the rule of law and freedom of expression.

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