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Vietnam court jails bloggers for anti-state propaganda

A court in Vietnam ordered three bloggers jailed for anti-state propaganda on Monday. Bloggers Nguyen Van Hai, alias Dieu Cay, Phan Thanh Hai, alias Anhbasg, and Ta Phong Tan [blogs, in Vietnamese] were charged [JURIST report] in April in the People's Court of Ho Chi Minh City [official website, in Vietnamese] on charges of spreading propaganda to defame the Vietnamese government, in violation of Article 88 of the Criminal Code [text, PDF]. The three bloggers belonged to the Club for Free Journalists, established in 2007, which promoted journalism that was separate from the state-run media. Blogger Nguyen Van Hai was sentenced [AFP report] to 12 years in prison, and Ta Phong Tan was sentenced to 10 years. Phan Thanh Hai pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four years. The US Embassy in Hanoi stated that they were concerned with the verdict and called on Vietnam to release the bloggers.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy websites] have called for the writers' release [HRW report], calling the charges "politically-motivated" [AI report]. According to the HRW 2012 Annual Report released in January [JURIST report], the Middle Eastern "Arab Spring" revolutions and protests may have inspired Vietnamese citizens to combat oppression in their country, especially restrictions on freedom of speech. However, the Vietnamese government has reacted strongly against pro-democracy bloggers. In November a Vietnamese appeals court reduced the sentence [JURIST report] of pro-democracy blogger and professor Pham Minh Hoang [blog, in Vietnamese], who had been sentenced [JURIST report] to three years in prison after writing anti-government articles on his blog under his pen name. In August 2011 a Vietnamese appeals court upheld the seven-year sentence of prominent rights lawyer and dissident Cu Huy Ha Vu, convicted in April [JURIST reports] of carrying out anti-state propaganda. 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. The same month, a Vietnamese court convicted four democracy activists [JURIST report] of subversion.

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