CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 18 May 2019

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Reduced sentences still mean jail time for rights advocates in Vietnam

Vinh City (UCAN): Four Christian rights advocates in Vietnam, jailed on charges of anti-government activity, had their sentences reduced on May 23, despite fears that a fresh crackdown on opposition forces is currently underway.

The four were accused of “carrying out non-violent activities to overthrow the people’s administration,” and “having links to Viet Tan,” a United States of America-based opposition group that has been labelled as a terrorist organisation by the government in Hanoi. 

According to local media, the appeals court in northern Nghe An province reduced Paul Le Van Son’s sentence from 13 years to four years after he “admitted to his wrongdoings.” Three others, Nguyen Xuan Anh, Nguyen Van Duyet and Ho Van Oanh, also received minor commutations.

Four others jailed in January on similar charges for between four and 13 years, received no reduction in their sentences.

The group has received strong public support, with hundreds of people staging a protest outside the courthouse and holding banners that read, You are innocent and Justice for patriots.

The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders issued a statement criticising the ongoing incarceration which said, “Even if the appeal court reduced Son’s sentence by a considerable amount, it is still unacceptable and reflects the government’s determination to reduce all dissidents to silence.”

It said that the charges “continue to be a complete lie. None of them ever tried to overthrow the regime. We continue to demand their release.”

In mid-May, a Vietnamese court sentenced another two people, 21-year-old Nguyen Phuong Uyen, and 25-year-old Dinh Nguyen Kha, to six and eight years for distributing leaflets critical of the state.

The government also introduced a media law requiring foreign language television stations to provide Vietnamese translations of their broadcasts prior to airing. 

 

This has prompted a cut in broadcasts from the BBC and CNN, and has stoked fears about growing media censorship.

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