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Vietnamese Cyber-Dissident's Sentence Reduced

Western media and international observers were barred from the appeals court hearing in August for Vietnamese cyber-dissident Pham Hong Son. But that didn't stop journalists and diplomats from eight countries from gathering outside the courthouse in Hanoi to register their concern. Pham, one of this year's Human Rights Watch Hellman/Hammett awardees, had been convicted in June on espionage charges after he posted pro-democracy statements on the Internet. Human Rights Watch issued a statement timed with Pham's August 26 appeals hearing that called for the dismissal of all charges. The statement received widespread attention in the international press and broadcast media. After a half-day hearing on August 26, Vietnam's Supreme Court reduced Pham's original sentence of thirteen years' imprisonment to five. Western and Asian diplomats attributed the lighter sentence to international pressure.

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