01/21/2010, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Ho Chi Minh City, sentences dissidents accused of subversion to five to 16 years

Among them Paul Le Cong Dinh, a 41 year-old Catholic lawyer. Additional penalty of house arrest. The trial was held between tight security. U.S. diplomat: verdict contrary to human rights obligations.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The trial of Catholic lawyer Paul Le Cong Dinh and three other democracy activists in Vietnam ended with a guilty verdict. The sentences range from five to 16 years in prison, plus an additional period under house arrest. The trial was held yesterday in Ho Chi Minh City and lasted only one day rather than the two days originally planned. Imposing security measures were taken by the police, while a small group of Western diplomats and journalists were only allowed to follow the hearing outside the court room, on a closed circuit TV screen.

 Paul Le Cong Dinh, a Vietnamese Catholic lawyer of 41, famous for his battles in defence of human rights, was sentenced to five years in prison. Blogger Nguyen Tien Trung, 26, will serve a sentence of seven years. Both were indicted for activities to "overthrow the communist government" and "admitted" guilt before the courts.  

Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, 43, and Le Thang Long, 42, were sentenced respectively to 16 years and five years in prison. During the hearing they rejected any wrongdoing, the prosecutor charged them of "suspicion" towards the judges and the court. Charges made against the activists - who also will serve three to five years under house arrest - provides for sentences ranging from a minimum of 12 years' imprisonment to the death sentence.

 During the hearing Tran Huynh Duy Thuc said that his conduct "did not violate the law." He admitted that he signed a confession in which he recognizes the defence of multi-party membership and "abuse" suffered during the investigation.  

A group of diplomats and Western journalists followed the trial outside the court room, on  closed circuit television. Cameras and cell phones were banned. The authorities prepared a massive deployment of police, to prevent possible protests.  

Yesterday Kenneth Fairfax U.S. Consulate General, said the verdict was contrary to the "obligations" of Vietnam in international human rights law. He also demanded the release of all prisoners held in prisons for having "peaceful expressed" their opinions.

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