Freelance journalists of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam Pham Chi Dung (R), Le Huu Minh Tuan (C) and Nguyen…
Freelance journalists of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam Pham Chi Dung, right, Le Huu Minh Tuan, center, and Nguyen Tuong Thuy stand during their trial Jan. 5, 2021.

The United States has called on Vietnam to release all people "unjustly detained" and to allow individuals "to express their views freely, without fear of retaliation," according to State Department principal deputy spokesperson Cale Brown.

The statement came out Thursday after Vietnam delivered "harsh sentences" at a quick trial Tuesday in Ho Chi Minh City to three members of the Independent Journalists Association (IJAV). Pham Chi Dung was sentenced to 15 years in prison and Nguyen Tuong Thuy, and Le Huu Minh Tuan were sentenced to 11 years each.

The U.S. urges the government "to ensure its actions are consistent with the human rights provisions of Vietnam’s constitution and its international obligations and commitments," Brown said.

According to the court verdict, Pham, 54, a prominent writer and founding member and president of IJAV, military veteran Nguyen, 69, and the younger Le "had regularly been in contact with regime opponents" before their arrests in 2019 and 2020.

The trio’s behavior posed "a danger to society... causing separation in social unity and people," the court verdict said.

In recent months, the Vietnamese government has stepped up its crackdown on dissent, arresting many of its critics.