After a two-hour hearing, the appeals court in central Dak Nong province rejected an appeal by Dinh Dang Dinh, a 49-year-old former teacher, against his August conviction for spreading anti-state propaganda.

“My client did not admit the charges. But the court still maintained that the verdict issued by the first instance court was correct,” Dinh’s defence lawyer Nguyen Thanh Luong said after the hearing.

Dinh, who is also a former army official, was charged with writing and posting anti-state documents on the internet between late 2007 and his arrest in October of last year.

He expressed opposition to the Communist Party leadership and called for democracy and pluralism in Vietnam, while also protesting against a controversial bauxite project in the Central Highlands, state media said.

“Dinh is like another toppling domino in Vietnam’s systematic campaign to silence its internal critics by locking them away behind bars for long prison terms,” said Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director of Human Rights Watch.

“These kinds of prosecutions raise fundamental concerns about Vietnam’s intentions towards free expression over the internet, and this is worrisome for human rights activists and foreign investors alike,” he said.

Charges of spreading anti-state propaganda and attempting to overthrow the regime are routinely laid against dissidents in a country where the Communist Party forbids political debate.

According to Human Rights Watch, Vietnam has jailed at least 10 peaceful activists this year while at least seven other bloggers and activists are awaiting trial for the same charge.

Agence France Presse - November 21, 2012