(New York)—The Vietnamese authorities should immediately release Nguyen Vu Binh, a journalist who was imprisoned after he criticized the government in an article distributed over the Internet, Human Rights Watch said. An appeals court trial in Hanoi today upheld Binh’s seven-year prison sentence on charges of espionage.

“Nguyen Vu Binh should never have been imprisoned in the first place,” said Dinah PoKempner, General Counsel at Human Rights Watch. “The fact that this appeal was rejected and a journalist remains behind bars for peaceful expression of his views highlights once again Vietnam’s intolerance of dissent.”

On December 31, Nguyen Vu Binh, 35, was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment and three years’ house arrest on charges of espionage under Article 80 of Vietnam’s Criminal Law. The case against him included slandering the Vietnamese state, a charge related to written testimony he provided to the U.S. Congress in July 2002 regarding human rights abuses in Vietnam. Binh was also targeted for his criticism of a controversial border treaty with China in an article distributed on the Internet in August 2002. He was arrested and jailed in September 2002.

Binh, who in 2002 received the prestigious Hellmann/Hammett writers’ award for writers who have been victims of political persecution, was a journalist at the official Communist Party of Vietnam’s journal, Communist Review (Tap Chi Cong San) for almost 10 years. In December 2000 he resigned from his post to attempt to form an independent political party. He was also one of several dissidents who attempted to form an Anti-Corruption Association in 2001.

Vietnam’s Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Vietnam is a state party, grant citizens the right to exercise freedom of expression, assembly and association.