Vietnam court cuts jail terms for dissidents

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

    Uyen and Kha were accused of distributing anti-government propaganda [AFP]
    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.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    The woman who cleans up after 'lonely deaths' in Japan

    The woman who cleans up after 'lonely deaths' in Japan

    When somebody dies lonely and alone, Miyu Kojima steps in to clean their home and organise the mementos of their life.

    Putin and the 'triumph of Christianity' in Russia

    Putin and the 'triumph of Christianity' in Russia

    The rise of the Orthodox Church in Russia appears unstoppable, write filmmakers Glen Ellis and Viktoryia Kolchyna who went to investigate the close ties between the church and Putin.

    The chill effect: Is India's media running scared?

    The chill effect: Is India's media running scared?

    Much of India's media spurns a scoop about the son of PM Modi's right-hand man. Plus, NFL as platform for race politics.