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Vietnam rights lawyer jailed after calling for government reform

A Vietnamese court on Monday convicted well-known lawyer and activist Cu Huy Ha Vu of carrying out anti-state propaganda and sentenced him to seven years of imprisonment and an additional three years of house arrest. During the trial, which lasted only one day, Vu's lawyers were thrown out of court [AP report], and Vu was forced to defend himself. Vu has been in prison since November because of interviews he gave to the international press in which he advocated for elimination of the one-party political system [BBC report] in Vietnam and other democratic reforms. His detention has been widely criticized by international human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website], which called VU's arrest the latest incident [press release] in a "campaign of repression" against activists. In 2009, Vu sued Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung [BBC profile] in connection with a government initiative to develop, in collaboration with China, a bauxite mine. Vu is the son of Cu Huy Can, a leader in former Vietnamese president Ho Chi Minh's government and highly respected poet.

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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