Vietnam court cuts jail terms for dissidents

Student activist freed while her co-defendant had his sentence halved in rare show of leniency.

Last Modified: 16 Aug 2013 14:34
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Uyen and Kha were accused of distributing anti-government propaganda [AFP]

A Vietnamese court has overturned a six-year jail term handed to a student activist, freeing her on the spot in a rare show of leniency by the authoritarian nation, while her co-defendant had his setence halved.

Friday's verdict freeing 21-year-old Nguyen Phuong Uyen was unexpected.

"She was freed at the court," lawyer Nguyen Thanh Luong, who does not represent Uyen but attended the proceedings, told AFP news agency, adding that Uyen was instead handed a three-year suspended sentence.

Vietnam's courts routinely reject pleas by anti-state dissidents against their lengthy sentences, reports said.

Uyen was sentenced in May to six years in prison for distributing anti-state propaganda, prompting an outcry from Vietnamese social media users and international rights groups.

Uyen's co-defendant, 25-year-old computer technician Dinh Nguyen Kha, who was jailed for eight years at their trial in the southern province of Long An, had his sentence halved by the appeal court on Friday.

'Humiliating the administration'

Uyen and Kha were accused of distributing anti-government leaflets which "humiliated the administration" and called for demonstrations against the regime.

The charges, under Article 88 of the criminal code, carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail and are routinely laid against dissidents.

Uyen, who refused legal representation for the appeal hearing, reportedly told the court she was a patriot and not a criminal.

"Opposing the (ruling) Communist Party does not mean opposing the country and the people," she said, according to an unofficial transcript of proceedings posted online by activists.

Vietnamese dissidents and online activists welcomed the unexpected verdict, but many voiced suspicions about the government's motives in freeing the popular Uyen, whose plight has attracted strong support.

This year, at least 46 activists have been convicted and three bloggers were detained in June for anti-state activity in Vietnam, where the Communist Party forbids all political debate.


Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
Featured on Al Jazeera
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Students kept from using screen-based technology for five days showed improvement in recognizing emotion, US study says.
Frustration grows in Kiev as pledges to end corruption and abuse of power stagnate after Maidan Square protest.
Thousands of Houthi supporters have called for the fall of Yemen's government. But what do the Houthis really want?
New ration reductions and movement restrictions have refugees from Myanmar anxious about their future in Thailand.
US lawyers say poor translations of election materials disenfranchise Native voters.
join our mailing list