Vietnam jails 3 activists for comments critical of state

HANOI, Vietnam — A court in Hanoi handed down prison terms up to eight years to three activists on Wednesday after finding them guilty of posting video clips on social media critical of the communist government, their lawyer said.

Vu Quang Thuan, 51, was convicted on charges of spreading propaganda against the state and sentenced to eight years and five years of probation in a trial that lasted half a day Wednesday, lawyer Tran Thu Nam said.

Thuan's accomplices Nguyen Van Dien, 34, and Tran Hoang Phuc, 23, received 6 1/2 years and 6 years respectively on the same charges. The two will also serve four years of house arrest each after serving their sentences.

They were accused of posting 17 video clips prosecutors said vilified the country's leaders and the state. They have denied they committed a crime.

The lawyers told the court there was insufficient evidence to convict their clients, Nam said.

The defendants "are among a growing group of bloggers and activists who use the internet to advance human rights and democracy in Vietnam," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch in a statement Tuesday. "Arrest and imprisonment of dissenting voices will not stop the increasing number of Vietnamese from speaking up."

Last week, a court in southern province of An Giang convicted four members of the Hoa Hao Buddhist sect of spreading propaganda against the state by flying the flag of the defeated U.S-backed South Vietnam regime.

The four — a father and son and twin brothers — were sentenced to between six to 12 years in prison.

Vietnam's repression of human rights and democracy activists increased significantly last year with at least 24 people convicted for their writings and advocacy, Human Rights Watch said.

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