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Vietnam court convicts 14 bloggers of subversion

The Vietnam Supreme People's Court in the central Nghe An province on Wednesday sentenced 14 Catholic Redemptorist bloggers to jail terms ranging from 3 to 13 years of combined prison and house arrest. The defendants are associated with Viet Tan [advocacy website], a dissident group that Vietnam's government deems terrorists, although the US government has reported no evidence of terrorism. The trial lasted for two days [AP report] and culminated in the activists being found guilty of attending Viet Tan's training courses on nonviolent struggle and computer and Internet security, and some also of protesting against China's claims to territory in the South China Sea. The US Embassy in Hanoi [official website] issued a statement [text] about the verdicts, saying that the convictions "are part of a disturbing human rights trend [and] appears to be inconsistent with Vietnam's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights relating to freedom of expression and due process." The embassy called on for the immediate release of the defendants and other prisoners of conscience.

In September a court in Vietnam ordered [JURIST report] bloggers Nguyen Van Hai, alias Dieu Cay, Phan Thanh Hai, alias Anhbasg, and Ta Phong Tan jailed for anti-state propaganda on charges of spreading propaganda to defame the Vietnamese government, in violation of Article 88 of the Criminal Code [text, PDF]. Blogger Nguyen Van Hai was sentenced 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. Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy websites] have called for the writers' release, calling the charges "politically-motivated" [AI report]. In 2011 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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