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Vietnam appeals court reduces sentence of pro-democracy blogger

An appeals court in Vietnam reduced the sentence of pro-democracy blogger and professor Pham Minh Hoang [blog, in Vietnamese], alias Phan Kien Quoc, by more than half on Tuesday. Hoang was sentenced [JURIST report] in August to three years in prison after writing anti-government articles on his blog under his pen name. The appeals court reduced Hoang's sentence from three years to 17 months, but the court upheld his sentence of three years house arrest which he is to serve following the prison term. Hoang was charged with trying to overthrow the government after he reportedly joined the pro-democracy group Viet Tan [political website, in Vietnamese], which is banned in Vietnam as a terrorist organization, and began writing anti-government blog posts. According to Hoang's lawyer, the court cited Hoang's cooperation with police and his commitment to renounce Viet Tan as reasons for reducing his sentence [AP report].

In early August, a Vietnamese appeals court upheld the seven-year sentence of prominent rights lawyer and dissident Cu Huy Ha Vu, convicted in April [JURIST report] of carrying out anti-state propaganda. The court dismissed the appeal [AP report] despite Vu's arguments that his advocating for a multi-party system did not mean he was against the Communist party. 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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