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Three cyber-dissidents sentenced to prison

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has condemned the sentences of three, four and five years in prison that were imposed by a Ho Chi Minh City court on 10 May 2007 on cyber-dissidents Huynh Nguyen Dao, Nguyen Bac Truyen and Le Nguyen Sang, respectively, for "propaganda against the communist regime". Their trial lasted just four hours.

After easing while Vietnam negotiated its admission to the World Trade Organisation, the vice is again tightening on dissidents in the run-up to the next session of the People's National Assembly, the press freedom organisation said. Now that international pressure has lessened, the government is trying to snuff out Vietnam's fragile pro-democracy movement.

Dao, a journalist, Truyen, a businessman, and Sang, a doctor, were arrested in August 2006 and charged with using the Internet to spread anti-government propaganda. They acknowledged in court to being members of the People's Democratic Party and to having campaigned for political pluralism in Vietnam.

The judge described their activities as "dangerous for society" and said they had "weakened the regime's authority." Prosecutors said they downloaded and distributed material originating from a US citizen of Vietnamese origin, Cong Thanh Do, who was arrested in Vietnam and then expelled in August 2006.

Two other dissidents, human rights lawyers Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan, are to be tried on charges of "anti-government propaganda" before a Hanoi court on 11 May. They are members of Bloc 8406, a pro-democracy group.

Reporters Without Borders supports the open letter signed by former Czech dissident Vaclav Havel and a dozen other leading figures calling for their release and the release of Nguyen Van Ly, a Catholic priest who was arrested in March and convicted of propaganda against the government.

Another Bloc 8406 member, Tran Quoc Hien, who is the spokesman of the United Workers-Farmers Organization (UWFO), is to appear in court on 15 May on charges of "sabotaging" national security, as well as defaming the state and anti-government propaganda under article 88 of the criminal code (see alerts of 30 and 25 April 2007 and 22 November 2006).

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