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Vietnam cuts activists' sentences

Concerns remain over government crackdown on dissenters

Vietnam cuts activists' sentences

Security officials stand guard outside the Vinh City court reporter, Vinh City

May 24, 2013

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Four activists in Vietnam jailed on anti-government charges have had their sentences cut, despite fears that a fresh crackdown on opposition forces is currently underway.

The appeals court in northern Nghe An province yesterday reduced Paul Le Van Son’s sentence from 13 years to four years after he “admitted to his wrongdoings,” according to local media. Three others, Nguyen Xuan Anh, Nguyen Van Duyet and Ho Van Oanh, also received minor commutations.

The four, who are all Christian, were accused of “carrying out non-violent activities to overthrow the people’s administration,” and “having links to Viet Tan,” a US based opposition group that has been labeled a terrorist organization by Hanoi.

Yet an additional four activists, who were also jailed in January on similar charges for between four and 13 years, received no reduction in their sentences.

The group has received strong public support, with hundreds of protesters outside the courthouse yesterday holding banners that read ‘You are innocent’, and ‘Justice for patriots’.

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders criticised the ongoing incarceration of the eight.

“Even if the appeal court reduced Son’s sentence by a considerable amount, it is still unacceptable and reflects the government’s determination to reduce all dissidents to silence,” the group said in a statement.

It said that the charges "continue to be a complete lie. None of them ever tried to overthrow the regime. We continue to demand their release.”

Last week a Vietnamese court sentenced another two activists, Nguyen Phuong Uyen, 21, and Dinh Nguyen Kha, 25, to six and eight years respectively on charges of distributing leaflets critical of the state.

The government also introduced a media law that requires foreign language television stations to provide Vietnamese translations of their broadcasts prior to airing. The law has prompted major satellite stations to cut broadcasts from the BBC and CNN and sparked fears about growing media censorship.

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