A court in Vietnam's coastal Nghe An province sentenced a music teacher to 11 years in prison on Friday for posting criticisms of Vietnam's government online, according to Vietnamese sources.
Nguyen Nang Tinh received close to the maximum sentence allowed for the offense under Vietnamese law, his lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng told RFA's Vietnamese Service, adding that Tinh's defense team had been restricted by the court in their efforts to defend him.
This verdict was very harsh in relation to the possible range of jail terms of from 5 to 12 years, Mieng said following Tinh's trial. Prosecutors proposed a sentence of from 11 to 12 years, and the panel of judges trying the case decided on 11 years.
Tinh's three lawyers had also not been given enough time to prepare their defense, Mieng said, adding that they were not allowed to have a copy of case documents prepared by prosecutors, and could only briefly review the papers and jot down notes.
We could only base our defense on the defendant's right to freedom of expression and on guarantees provided in the U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that everyone is entitled to express their own points of view, he said.
In a statement Friday, Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phil Robertson called the harsh sentence imposed on Tinh for simply expressing his views an example of Vietnam's utter contempt for free and fair judicial proceedings.
This long prison sentence, and the show trial that produced it, demonstrate precisely why Vietnam's courts are the biggest jokes in ASEAN when it comes to justice for the accused, Robertson said.
Activist held, released
Meanwhile, Vietnamese authorities on Friday briefly held and then released a Vietnamese doctor and democracy advocate following her return after spending three years out of the country as an intern in a civil society training program.
Dinh Thao, who was born in 1991 in northern Vietnam's Thai Nguyen province, was taken into custody on her arrival at Hanoi's Noi Bai airport at around 8:30 a.m., and was held for questioning for nearly eight hours before being released at around 5:00, fellow activists said in postings online.
In a statement, Joanne Mariner�Research Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific for the rights group Amnesty International�said that Thao's detention after being out of the country for three years shows how aggressively [the authorities] go after anyone who dares criticize them.
Viet Nam's repressive government is again showing its brazen hostility to those who want a better future for the country�including respect for human rights, Mariner said.
According to Human Rights Watch, Vietnam's one-party communist government currently holds an estimated 138 political prisoners, including rights advocates and bloggers deemed threats to national security.
It also controls all media, censors the internet, and restricts basic freedoms of expression.
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