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Vietnam orders harsh jail terms to 6 people for advocating democracy

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“The defendants’ act is especially serious because it directly impacts the survival of the people’s administration,” it said. Prosecutors identified Dai as the mastermind of the group who recruited members and sought financing from foreign organizations and individuals, which totaled more than $80,000, VNA reported earlier.

Dai and four others had previously been jailed for violating national security laws, and Dai’s license to practice law was revoked. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the United States was deeply troubled by the harsh sentences under a “vague charge” and called for the release of all “prisoners of conscience” immediately.

“Individuals have the right to the fundamental freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, both online and offline,” she said in a statement. “The United States is deeply concerned by the Vietnamese government’s efforts to restrict these rights, through a disturbing trend of increased arrests, convictions, and harsh sentences of peaceful activists.”

Speaking to reporters at a regular briefing Thursday, Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said there are no “prisoners of conscience” in Vietnam and no one has been arrested for freedom of expression.

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