01/30/2010, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Vietnam, dissident Pham Thanh Nghien sentenced to 7 years

by Nguyen Hong
The writer, 32, was arrested in 2008. After a half-day trial, she was found guilty of "propaganda against the state". In the last three months, 14 dissidents convicted.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - The Vietnamese government yesterday sentenced Pham Thanh Nghien, a Vietnamese dissident writer to 4 years in prison plus 3 under house arrest after a half-day trial in the northern city of Haiphong. The charge, typical of such farcical trials, is of "spreading propaganda against the state."  

Nghien, 32, was convicted in November 2008 for protesting against the Vietnamese position – which she considered too soft – over control of the Paracel and Spratly Islands, disputed with China, and requested the authorities for permission (denied ) to hold a demonstration against a rise in inflation.

However, according to her lawyer, at yesterday's hearing - held behind closed doors – she was charged in relation to defamation of public officials, in an article in which Nghien accused them of pocketing money intended for families of Vietnamese fishermen killed by the Chinese navy in an accident in 2007.  

The ruling came despite an appeal by three U.S. senators, who two days ago asked the Hanoi authorities to release Nghien and Tran Khai Thanh Thuy, another dissident, defining the accusations against them "seriously flawed". Last week, a court in Ho Chi Minh City sentenced four activists to 5 to 16 years in prison for "subversion."  

With Nghien’s trial, the total number of dissidents to stand trial in Vietnam over the last three months is now 14. Analysts say the crackdown on dissent is due to a struggle between factions ahead of the next Communist Party Congress, scheduled for January 2011. This would also explain clashes with the Catholic Church, which continues to maintain the support of the population.

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