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Vietnam appeals court upholds activists' sentences

A Vietnamese appeals court on Tuesday affirmed the sentences facing two democracy activists convicted of subversion. The court upheld [BBC report] the sentence of five years imprisonment and three subsequent years of house arrest for prominent human rights lawyer Le Cong Dinh [JURIST news archive], as well as the 16-year sentence against Internet entrepreneur Tran Huynh Duy Thuc. The court reduced Le Thang Long's original five-year sentence to three-and-a-half years, while Nguyen Tien Trung did not appeal. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] had called for a complete dismissal [press release] of the charges, saying anything less "would be a new landmark of Vietnam's intolerance for political pluralism."

The four were accused [Reuters report] of activities aimed at ending Vietnam's communist rule and convicted [JURIST report] in January after a one-day trial. Dinh, the best known of the defendants, admitted [NYT report] to advocating multi-party democracy in Vietnam and joining the banned Democratic Party of Vietnam. In February, a Vietnamese court sentenced pro-democracy writer and rights activist Tran Khai Thanh Thuy to three-and-a-half years in prison on assault charges, a week after Pham Thanh Nghien received a four year sentence [JURIST reports] on charges of spreading anti-state propaganda. Pro-democracy dissident Tran Anh Kim was also sentenced [JURIST report] in December to five-and-a-half years in prison for subversion. Dinh was originally charged [JURIST report] in June with "colluding with foreign reactionaries to sabotage the Vietnamese State," in violation of Article 88 [text] of the Vietnamese penal code, for the alleged distribution of anti-government documents. He was also disbarred [JURIST report] following his arrest.

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