A court in Vietnam has sentenced nine people to a total of 83 years in prison for anti-government activities, according to state media, as authorities continue a crackdown on dissent in the one-party Communist nation.
On Dec. 28, the People’s Court of Binh Dinh Province convicted four defendants on charges of “spreading propaganda against the state” and five others on charges of “acting to overthrow the government,” under Articles 88 and 79 of Vietnam’s Penal Code, the official Zing.vn website said in a report.
Those sentenced under Article 88 were Pham Long Dai, 21, of Gia Lai province; and Doan Thi Bich Thuy, 45; Truong Thi Thu Hang, 33; and Tran Thi Bich Ngoc, 23—all residents of Binh Dinh’s Quy Nhon city, the report said.
Those sentenced under Article 79 were Huynh Huu Dat, 47, of Binh Dinh; Ta Tan Loc, 42, of Ho Chi Min City; Nguyen Quang Thanh, 34, of Quang Nam province; Nguyen Van Nghia, 39, of Tien Giang province; and Nguyen Van Tuan, 33, of Thai Binh province, it said.
According to the indictment, on Feb. 16, Dat and other members of the group “printed and distributed leaflets” in Quy Nhon and An Nhon township, in Binh Dinh’s Tuy Phuoc district. The content of the leaflets was termed “anti-Communist Party” and “anti-Vietnam.”
Thanh and Loc each received 14 years in prison—the longest sentences issued Thursday—while Dat was jailed for 13 years. The rest of the defendants received sentences of between three and 12 years.
All of the nine defendants are also subject to three years of house arrest after completing their prison terms.
Authorities have been targeting activist writers, bloggers and government critics in a months-long crackdown in Vietnam, a one-party state where dissent is not tolerated.
Articles 79 and 88 of the penal code are among the broadly-worded national security laws that rights groups and Western governments say Vietnam uses to persecute dissidents.
Last week, a court in Vietnam’s Ha Nam province upheld a nine-year prison sentence for human rights activist Tran Thi Nga—a campaigner who defends the rights of Vietnamese migrant workers and victims of government land grabs—rejecting her appeal of her conviction under Article 88 in a hearing that sparked protests by activists who were then beaten by police.
A day earlier, court in An Giang province sentenced five people to a total of 19 years in prison under Article 88 for hanging 26 flags emblazoned with three red stripes—the symbol of the former Republic of Vietnam—in the province’s Chau Doc township in late April.
Vietnam is currently holding at least 84 prisoners of conscience, the highest number in any country in Southeast Asia, according to rights group Amnesty International.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Emily Peyman. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.