Vietnam cuts dissident’s jail term

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) ? An appeals court in southern Vietnam has reduced by more than half the sentence against a French-Vietnamese math professor convicted of belonging to a banned pro-democracy group and publishing an anti-communist blog, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Pham Minh Hoang, 56, was found guilty in a trial in August of trying to overthrow the government by posting 33 articles criticizing the one-party Communist system, as well as of holding membership in the banned Viet Tan group and recruiting others to join it.

Lawyer Tran Vu Hai said the appeals court in Ho Chi Minh City in a trial that lasted three hours Tuesday reduced the jail term against Hoang from three years to 17 months.

The court cited Hoang’s cooperation with police, his commitment to renounce Viet Tan group and activities that oppose the government as reasons for the decision to reduce the sentence, Hai said.

U.S.-based Viet Tan says it is a nonviolent advocate of democracy, but Hanoi considers it a terrorist organization ? a claim U.S. officials say they have not found any evidence to support.

The appeals court, however, upheld the three years of house arrest after Hoang serves out his sentence in January, the lawyer said.

Hoang’s conviction in August was criticized by the U.S. government, some European countries and international rights groups.

Vietnam’s Communist government does not tolerate dissent, and rights groups say it uses vague national security laws to imprison anyone who challenges its rule. Hanoi maintains that only lawbreakers are jailed.