The Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Tuesday rejected a call by the US for the release of Cu Huy Ha Vu as "an intervention in Vietnam's internal affairs."
The statement by the US Department of State says Vu's conviction violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and raises serious questions about Vietnam's commitment to rule of law and reform.
It says no individual should be imprisoned for exercising the right to free speech and urges the Vietnamese government to release Vu and all other prisoners of conscience immediately.
Answering reporters' question on Vietnam's response to the statement, MOFA spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga said Vietnam handles violations of the law in accordance with Vietnamese and international laws, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
In Vietnam, citizens' rights to freedom and democracy, including freedom of speech, are regulated clearly in the Constitution and other legal documents, Nga said, adding they are respected and enforced in reality.
She also denied that there were any "˜prisoners of conscience' in Vietnam.
The Hanoi People's Court on Monday (April 4) sentenced Cu Huy Ha Vu, 54, to seven years of imprisonment for "distributing propaganda against the State."
In 2009, Vu had filed a petition with the Hanoi People's Court against Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung for approving a plan to build bauxite mines in the Central Highlands. The suit was dismissed four days after being filed.
Vu was charged under Article 88 of the Criminal Code which carried a jail term of three to 20 years. Vu will be under house arrest for three years after serving the seven-year sentence, the judges ruled after the daylong trial.
According to the indictment, Vu posted articles and interviews with foreign media criticizing the state between 2009 and 2010.
The articles and interviews allegedly maligned Party and
State guidelines and policies, defamed the administration and State institutions, and blackened the legacy of Vietnam's resistance wars.
The judges said Vu's acts "put the society in danger and violate the interests of the State and the people."
At the beginning of the trial, the defendant and his four lawyers proposed the trial be postponed and investigations against Vu suspended but their requests were turned down by presiding judge Nguyen Huu Chinh.
"We will not accept the requests by the defendant and the lawyers. If the defendant does not agree, he can appeal. The judge panel will be responsible for its decisions," he said.
One of the lawyers, Tran Vu Hai, was asked to leave the courtroom because of his reactions. The other lawyers walked out soon after.
Vu denied all accusations against him.
Last November, Ho Chi Minh City police had arrested Vu at a hotel in District 6. The Ministry of Public Security's police later searched his house and seized his documents.
Vu's trial had been scheduled for March 24. However, it was delayed until April 4.
Vu is the son of Cu Huy Can, who was a member of revered founding president Ho Chi Minh's provisional cabinet from 1945 and a celebrated poet, and a nephew of Xuan Dieu, also one of the country's famed poets.
Vu obtained a doctorate in law in France and ran a law firm with his wife in Hanoi before being detained. Vu is not a practicing lawyer.