Vietnam sentences three to prison for propaganda against the state

Other News Materials 26 April 2008 12:29 (UTC +04:00)

A Vietnamese court has sentenced three people to between two and five years in prison on charges of conducting propaganda against the state, media reports said Saturday.

The People's Court of Ho Chi Minh City handed down the heaviest sentence of five years in prison to Pham Ba Hai, 40, at a trial that ended Friday, according to the newspaper Nhan Dan (The People).

Nguyen Ngoc Quang, 44, was sentenced to three years and Vu Hoang Hai, 43, to two years in prison, the newspaper said.

The indictment states Pham Ba Hai led the three in forming a group named "Bach Dang River" in April 2006, dpa reported.

Nhan Dan said the group "uploaded distorted information on the internet in the period between April and August 2006 to ignite demonstrations and slander the party and government leaders, with the aim of sabotaging the Socialist Republic of Vietnam."

According to exiled Vietnamese pro-democracy organizations, Pham Ba Hai was first interrogated in August 2006 because of his membership in Bloc 8406, a group of dissidents who signed a manifesto in April 2006 calling for multiparty democracy.

Hai reportedly taped his interrogation by police and uploaded it on the internet.

Hai was arrested later that August and has been held ever since.

Nhan Dan said the three activists pleaded guilty at the trial and showed remorse.

The founding of Bloc 8406 was part of an upsurge in political activism by dissident groups throughout 2006.

Since 2007, Vietnam has jailed a number of members of Bloc 8406, including the Catholic priest, Father Nguyen Van Ly, and the human rights lawyers Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan.

Most have been sentenced to terms of several years in prison under Article 88 of Vietnam's penal code, which forbids "spreading propaganda against the Vietnamese state."