Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) today expressed disappointment that Vietnamese Christian lawyers Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan were not released after their appeal hearing at the Supreme People's Court yesterday, but welcomed the reduction of their sentences.
The pair were sentenced in May 2007 to prison terms of five years and four years respectively for ?disseminating slanderous and libellous information against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam' under Article 88 of the nation's Criminal Code. Both sentences were cut by one year following the appeal hearing yesterday.
Their detention was widely believed to be a government backlash against their defence of human rights and their pro-democracy activism. Their imprisonment has attracted considerable international criticism, and some commentators believed they would be released on appeal.
In a 23-page plea to the court entitled "My husband is a patriot, my husband is innocent", Mrs Vu Minh Khanh, wife of lawyer Dai, argued that he was motivated by patriotism and that his work in shedding light on human rights abuses had actually helped Vietnam to improve its record in this area. She asserted that "the voices of people like my husband's are very much needed".
She claimed that Dai had been the victim of a vicious government-led disinformation campaign, and that his sentencing had been "the result of sloppy and prejudicial work by the prosecutorial organs".
CSW's National Director, Stuart Windsor, said, "We are disappointed that that the pair were not freed following the appeal hearing, as had been hoped. However, the reduction in their sentences is positive. We believe that lawyers Dai and Nhan have been imprisoned in order to be silenced, and call for their immediate and unconditional release. We will continue to urge the international community to put pressure on the Vietnamese authorities to secure their freedom."