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Sixth cyber-dissident jailed in worst crackdown since 2002

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders said it was stunned by a five-year jail sentence handed down on 15 May 2007 to pro-democracy activist Tran Quoc Hien, the sixth such sentence in a week.

The 42-year-old member of the democratic movement "bloc 8406" and spokesperson for the United Workers-Farmers Organization (UWFO) was sentenced for "spreading anti-government propaganda" online and "endangering state security" at the end of a four-hour trial. He had been arrested in January 2007.

Voicing deep concern about the crackdown, the worldwide press freedom organisation said: "It is the worst series of arrests and sentences since 2002. The Vietnamese government is playing games with the international community. It pretended for several months to be ready to open up, with the aim of easing its membership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), but it is now obvious it was a smokescreen."

"Vietnam is one of the most authoritarian and repressive countries in the world, a country where the simple fact of publicly calling for democratic reform leads to prison. It is time that Europe, the United States and all democratic governments got tougher with the Vietnamese authorities", the organisation said.
Five other pro-democracy activists have been tried over the last five days. Huynh Nguyen Dao, Nguyen Bac Truyen and Le Nguyen Sang were sentenced, respectively, on 10 May 2007 to three, four and five years in jail. The following day, lawyers Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan were sentenced to five and four years in prison (see previous IFEX alert of 15 May 2007).

Six cyber-dissidents were arrested between January and September 2002: Le Chi Quang, Pham Hong Son, Pham Que Duong, Tran Khue, Nguyen Vu Binh and Nguyen Khac Toan. They were sentenced to jail terms of up to 12 years in prison. Of these, only Nguyen Vu Binh is still behind bars. The others were released in the month before Vietnam became a member of the WTO, in November 2006.

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