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15-month suspended jail term for Vietnamese blogger who campaigned for brother's release

On 29 October 2013, a court in the southern province of Long An handed down a 15-month suspended prison sentence against blogger and activist Dinh Nhat Uy for criticizing the government on Facebook.

He was convicted under article 258 of the criminal code, which penalizes "abusing democratic freedoms against the interests of the state and the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and individuals."

"We condemn this conviction, which was a reprisal for Uy's involvement in the online campaign for the release of his jailed younger brother, the blogger Dinh Nguyen Kha," Reporters Without Borders said. "Although released, Uy will be under surveillance. The sentence is one more example of how the authorities harass the families of jailed cyber-dissidents.

"Like the denial of defence rights during Kha's appeal hearing, today's presence of 400 plainclothes police in the courtroom to create the illusion of a public hearing and the harassment of Uy's lawyers, which led one of them, Nguyen Thanh Luong, to withdraw from the case, highlight the bogus nature of these trials, whose outcome is decided in advance."

According to the indictment, Uy was prosecuted for four online posts. One was an article entitled "These party members who accept the truth," in which he described a conversation in which two Communist Party members referred to the abilities of the party's leaders in offensive terms.

Another was about the activities of "Patriotic Youth," an organization reportedly critical of the government. The other two were "insulting" about two national corporations - the military telecommunications group and the posts and telecommunications company.

Although these posts dated back to December 2012, Uy was not arrested until June, when the campaign for his brother's release got under way.

Uy was released at 3 p.m. on 29 October but will be subject to a form of a home confinement during the 15 months of the suspended prison sentence and will continue to be subject to close monitoring for another 12 months thereafter.

Many demonstrators gathered around the courthouse in a show of support for Uy. Members of his family, whose formal request to attend the trial had been refused, were detained while the hearing was taken place.

The police also briefly detained about 30 activists who had gone to the court to support Uy. They included Le Ngoc Thanh, Hanh Nhan, Miu Manh Me, Phuong Uyen, Nguyen Thi Nhung, Peter Lam Bui, Hu Vo and Hoang Vi.

Uy had been facing a possible seven-year jail sentence under article 258 for using his Facebook page to organize the campaign for the release of Kha, who was given a four-year jail sentence on appeal in August on a charge of anti-government propaganda.

Vietnam is ranked 172nd out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index and figures in the 2013 "Enemies of the Internet" special report on surveillance.

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