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Lawyers for convicted Vietnam rights activist allege improper trial

Lawyers for human rights lawyer and activist Cu Huy Ha Vu claimed Tuesday that the judge failed to allow key evidence at Vu's trial on charges of carrying out anti-state propaganda. The court convicted Vu [JURIST report] on Monday, sentencing him to seven years in prison followed by three years of house arrest, on the basis of interviews given to international media in which Vu advocated an end to Vietnam's one-party system and other reforms. In their complaint, Vu's lawyers claim that the judge violated Vu's rights [AP report] under Vietnamese law by not giving lawyers access to or reading for himself complete transcripts of the interviews. During the trial, one of the Vu's lawyers was ejected from the court for repeatedly asking the judge to read the full transcripts, and Vu's other three lawyers left in protest forcing Vu to defend himself. Last week, Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] called for the Vietnamese government to release Vu [press release], calling him "one of the most prominent defenders of cultural, environmental and human rights in Vietnam," On Monday, the US Department of State [official website] expressed concerns [press release] over Vu's conviction, saying it "runs counter to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and raises serious questions about Vietnam's commitment to rule of law and reform."

Vu is among several dissidents in Vietnam who have been convicted for anti-government activity. In January, a Vietnamese court sentenced former communist official Vi Duc Hoi to eight years in prison [JURIST report] for advocating democracy and a multi-party system. In January 2010, a Vietnamese court sentenced [JURIST report] writer and democracy activist Pham Thanh Nghien to four years in prison on charges of spreading anti-state propaganda. That same month, a Vietnamese court convicted four democracy activists [JURIST report] of subversion. Following the one-day trial, human rights lawyer Le Cong Dinh [JURIST news archive] was sentenced to five years in prison. The four defendants were accused of activities aimed at ending communist rule in Vietnam. Dinh admitted to advocating multi-party democracy in Vietnam and joining the banned Democracy Party. Prior to Dinh's conviction, a Vietnamese court sentenced [JURIST report] pro-democracy dissident Tran Anh Kim in December 2009 to five-and-a-half years in prison for subversion.

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