A rare mass protest blocked rush hour traffic outside Hanoi People’s Court of Appeals on Tuesday, as prominent dissident Le Quoc Quan lost his appeal against imprisonment for tax evasion.
The conviction of Quan, a catholic lawyer and blogger on sensitive topics such as civil rights and religious freedom, has been denounced as politically motivated by human rights groups, and was branded “disturbing” by the U.S. government.
“The use of tax laws by Vietnamese authorities to imprison government critics for peacefully expressing their political views is disturbing,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki in a statement.
Quan, weak after 17 days of hunger strike, told the court that he was the victim of a political conspiracy, but court president Nguyen Van Son told AFP that he “took a disrespectful attitude towards the court.”
Detained since December 2012, Quan has been sentenced to 30 months in prison and fined with around $57,000.