A court in Ho Chi Minh City sentenced dissident Nguyen Dan Que, in custody since March 2003, to 30 months in prison on 29 July. Two other cyberdissidents, Pham Que Duong and Tran Khue, were released, respectively on 29 and 30 July.
Reporters Without Borders condemned the sentence against Nguyen Dan Que. "This eminent doctor has already spent more than 18 years behind bars. He will now spend more than a year in prison for having posted articles critical of the authorities on the Internet. This sentence against a campaigner for freedom of expression is utterly vicious," said the organisation.
Nguyen Dan Que, who is aged 61, was not represented by his lawyers in court and according to sources cited by Reuters, was constantly interrupted when he tried to defend himself during the hearing.
Tran Khue and Pham Que Duong were sentenced at the beginning of July to 19 months in prison "for abusing democratic rights with the aim of harming the interests of the State". Since the sentences corresponded to the amount of time the two men had already spent in custody their release had been expected at the end of the month.
Police arrested Nguyen Dan Que at his home in Ho Chi Minh City on 17 March 2003. The champion of free expression had already spent 18 years in prison and was only released in 1998. His arrest came after he posted a statement in which condemned the lack of press freedom in the country.
The statement was in reaction to remarks by the foreign affairs ministry spokesman who said on 12 March that freedom of information was guaranteed in Vietnam.
He is suffering from high blood pressure and a stomach ulcer. His family has never been allowed to visit him or to supply him with the medication he needs.
Twelve Nobel prize winners on 22 September 2003, wrote to secretary general of the Vietnamese Communist Party, expressing concern about Nguyen Dan Que’s state of health and asking for him to be allowed proper medical care and the right to visits from his family while awaiting his release.