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Vietnam court convicts Facebook user over campaign to free brother

Dinh Nhat Uy on Tuesday received a sentence of 15 months of house arrest from a Vietnamese court for abusing his freedom after he campaigned online via Facebook [official website] to release his brother, who was convicted and jailed in May for criticizing the government policies on land ownership, religion and sovereignty disputes with China. Dihn Nhat Uy was convicted [Reuters report] under Vietnam's penal code Article 258 [text], which states that people who abuse the rights of freedoms of speech, press, belief, religion, assembly, association or other democratic freedoms in order to infringe upon the state's interest can be subjected to punishment of between non-custodial reform of up to three years or imprisonment of up to seven years for serious instances of abuse. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy site] on Monday criticized [press release] the conviction of Dinh and has stated that Vietnam repeal the law. Dinh was arrested in Long An province on June 15, after he began his campaign on his Facebook account to free his younger brother, Dinh Nguyen Kha. Dinh Nguyen Kha's conviction was for a violation of the same law.

Vietnam has been under fire recently for human rights failures. HRW urged [JURIST report] the National Assembly of Vietnam [official website] last week to bring the country's constitution in line with international human rights standards in a letter to Assembly chairman, Nguyen Sinh Hung. Regarding concerns of the Vietnam government "prohibiting views deemed unwelcome," the letter referenced the imprisonment [JURIST report] of lawyer Le Quoc Quan who was sentenced in October to 30 months in prison for tax evasion, a charge that protesters claim was an attempt to silence a vocal critic of the Communist Party. In August, the US Embassy in Hanoi criticized [JURIST report] a Vietnam Internet law restricting online discussion of current affairs. Twenty-two Vietnamese activists were convicted of subversive activities and sentenced to lengthy prison terms [JURIST report] in February in one of the country's largest subversion trials in years. In the same month, HRW released its annual world report [JURIST report] in which it stated that the Vietnam government had been "systematically suppressing freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and persecuting those who question government policies, expose official corruption, or call for democratic alternatives to one-party rule."

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