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Court sentences Christian bloggers
US protests as heavy sentences are handed downRelatives of Marie Ta Phong Tan attend a prayer vigil on Sunday
- Asia Desk, Bangkok
- September 24, 2012
Nguyen Van Hai and Marie Ta Phong Tan received sentences of 12 years and 10 years, respectively, with five additional years of house arrest, while Phan Thanh Hai received a four-year sentence and three years of house arrest.
The bloggers were charged with spreading anti-government propaganda under Article 88 of the countryâ€™s criminal code. They were founding members of the Free Journalist Club, an organization not recognized as an official body by the government.
State media reports before todayâ€™s verdict said Phan Thanh Hai had â€śpleaded guilty and asked for a lenient sentence,â€ť while the two other defendants â€śobstinatelyâ€ť denied the charges against them.
The United States embassy in Hanoi was quick to criticize the verdict.
â€śWe are deeply concerned by reports that the Ho Chi Minh City Peopleâ€™s Court convicted and sentenced blogger Dieu Cay [Nguyen Van Hai] to 12 years in prison for peacefully expressing his political views,â€ť the embassy said in a statement today.
â€śThe governmentâ€™s treatment of Dieu Cay appears to be inconsistent with Vietnamâ€™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,â€ť the statement added.
It further urged the government to â€śrelease Dieu Cay and his fellow bloggers. As President Obama said on World Press Freedom Day, we call upon all governments to take the necessary steps to create societies in which independent journalists can operate freely and without fear.â€ť
Local blogs reported that an estimated 400 security officials blocked access to the court and confiscated cameras and mobile phones from bystanders who attempted to take photos.
About 18 people, including Nguyen Van Haiâ€™s wife and son, as well as Ta Phong Tanâ€™s two sisters, were taken into custody, according to local blog reports.
Phan Thanh Haiâ€™s wife was allowed to attend the trial today but was prohibited from wearing a T-shirt bearing the words â€śFreedom for Compatriots.â€ť
Dang Thi Kim Lieung, mother of Marie Ta Phong Tan, self-immolated and died on July 30 in protest over her daughterâ€™s continued detention, drawing widespread criticism of the government from the USand human rights organizations.
Judge postpones trial of three bloggers
US deeply concerned at self-immolation
Christian activist's mother sets herself ablaze