[JURIST] A Vietnamese court on Wednesday sentenced prominent dissident Le Quoc Quan [HRW backgrounder] to 30 months in prison for tax evasion. Quan's imprisonment sparked outrage [AFP report] from hundreds of protesters who believe the verdict was politically motivated and part of a widespread government crackdown on dissent. Quan, a lawyer and blogger, has been a vocal critic of Vietnam's communist government [BBC report] and has written extensively about alleged human rights abuses, religious suppression and political censorship in Vietnam. US officials estimate that Vietnam is currently incarcerating more than 120 political prisoners, including several bloggers.
This is the most recent criticism against the Vietnamese government for its history of suppressing dissident activity. In August the US criticized [JURIST report] a new Vietnam Internet decree that would effectively restrict online discussion of current affairs in the country. In February 22 Vietnamese activists were sentenced to lengthy prison terms [JURIST report] after the group was convicted of engaging in subversive activities to overthrow the county's communist government. Also in February Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] stated in its annual World Report [JURIST report] that Vietnam's government has 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" during the last few years. In January Vietnamese authorities released and deported [JURIST report] Vietnamese-American pro-democracy activist Nguyen Quoc Quan after a nine-month detention. Quan was arrested [JURIST report] on terrorism charges for planning protests in support of a banned group of US exiles. In the same month Vietnam convicted [JURIST report] 14 bloggers of subversion and issued prison sentences ranging from 3 to 13 years.