Rights groups and world leaders are slamming Vietnam for prison sentences given to three prominent bloggers who wrote about human rights abuses and corruption in their country.
Following a brief trial in Ho Chi Minh City Monday, the defendants received sentences ranging from four to 12 years for spreading "propaganda against the state."
U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said Washington is "deeply troubled" at the conviction of the bloggers, who she said "appear to have done nothing more than exercise their right to freedom of expression."
U.N. Human Rights chief Navi Pillay said Tuesday that the prison terms handed to the bloggers, two men and a woman, "exemplify the severe restrictions on freedom of expression in Vietnam."
The defendants, who are part of a group known as the "Free Journalists' Club" were found guilty after just a few hours of deliberations. Pillay said this "raises further questions about the defendants' right to due process and a fair trial."
Rights groups have criticized Vietnam's government for taking increasingly harsh measures to stifle online dissent in the Communist country, where all private media are banned.
Human Rights Watch's Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson said the long prison terms are "absolutely outrageous," and show "how deep-seated the Vietnam government crackdown on basic human rights really is."
Nguyen Van Hai received 12 years in prison, Ta Phong Tan got 10 years, and Phan Thanh Hai received a four-year prison term. All of the defendants will also be required to serve several years of house arrest following their prison terms.