Vietnam delays blogger trial after self-immolation

HANOI - Vietnam has delayed the trial of three bloggers accused of propaganda against the state, a lawyer said Friday, after authorities launched a probe into the self-immolation of the mother of one of the trio.

Communist officials have told AFP they are investigating the death of Dang Thi Kim Lieng, who set herself on fire in front of a local authority building on Monday and died on the way to hospital.

Lieng's daughter, Ta Phong Tan, a 43-year-old Catholic former policewoman, was due in court in Ho Chi Minh City next week along with Nguyen Van Hai, better known by his online alias Dieu Cay, and blogger Phan Thanh Hai.

The three were arrested after posting hundreds of political articles on the banned Vietnamese website "Free Journalists Club" and writing on their blogs, in a case that prompted US President Barack Obama to call for their release.

"I received a phone call from a court clerk saying the trial is postponed," Dieu Cay's lawyer Ha Huy Son told AFP Friday.

"On the phone, he did not give any reason. This afternoon, I may receive the notice in writing," he said.

Tan, who was arrested on September 5 last year and has been held in detention since, used her blog to denounce corruption and injustice in Vietnam's legal system.

The trio are due to be tried under article 88 of the Criminal Code, which covers conducting propaganda against the one-party communist state and carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, according to their lawyers.

The United States on Wednesday called on Vietnam to free the bloggers, saying it was "deeply concerned" at Lieng's self-immolation.

Dozens of Catholic bloggers and activists are in detention pending investigation or awaiting trial in Buddhist-dominated Vietnam, where some religious groups have complained of ill-treatment.

Relations between the Catholic community and the state have long been tense, and there are often eruptions over land disputes.

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