Vietnam court rejects appeals of 2 dissidents, reduces jail term for a third

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Vietnam court upholds dissidents’ jail sentences

HANOI, Vietnam — A Vietnamese appeals court has upheld a 5-year prison sentence for one of the communist country’s best-known human rights attorneys and an unusually harsh 16-year sentence for an activist accused of working with him to promote democracy.

The court reduced the sentence of a third defendant accused of working with them to overthrow Vietnam’s government from five years to three-and-a-half years, according to defense attorney Nguyen Minh Tam.

The one-day appeal hearing was closed to foreign reporters and diplomats.

Tam said the court upheld the 16-year sentence against Internet entrepreneur Tran Huynh Duy Thuc and the 5-year sentence against U.S.-trained human rights attorney Le Cong Dinh. It reduced the sentence of businessman Le Thang Long.

Dinh, the most well-known member of the group, acknowledged breaking Vietnamese law by trying to promote a multiparty democracy but appealed for a lesser sentence, according to a court official who declined to be named, citing policy.

Thuc and Long sought to have their convictions reversed, the official said.

The three were convicted in January along with Nguyen Tien Trung, a computer science student in France, of supporting the outlawed Democratic Party of Vietnam and collaborating with overseas Vietnamese groups to overthrow the government.

Trung, who is serving a seven-year sentence, did not file an appeal.

Vietnam, a one-party state, does not tolerate any challenges to its power.

The defendants were among dozens of democracy activists and bloggers swept up over the past year in a government crackdown that drew strong criticism from the United States, the European Union and international human rights organizations.

New York-based Human Rights Watch had called on the appeals court to reverse the convictions.

“These activists and scores of other peaceful government critics unjustly imprisoned in Vietnam should be freed immediately,” Brad Adams, the group’s Asia director, said in a statement.

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