The case has been followed closely in Vietnam, where land disputes have become common in recent years, as local officials reclaim land from rural tenants, often at low compensation rates, for use as industrial parks or for redevelopment.

The People’s Supreme Court of Vietnam said at the end of the two-day hearing on Tuesday that it rejected the appeal by Doan Van Vuon, a 50-year-old army veteran, his defending lawyer Tran Vu Hai and state media said.

Mr. Vuon was convicted of attempted murder and handed a five-year jail term by a court in Haiphong City in April. Several members of his family were also given sentences ranging from probation to five years in prison at the trial for attempted murder and hindering officials in carrying out their duties.

“We the lawyers tried our best at the hearing to prove that Mr. Vuon didn’t intend to kill anyone, and I still believe that he only wanted to scare off the evicting force,” Mr. Hai told The Wall Street Journal.

Government prosecutors were cited by online newspaper VnExpress as saying at the appeals hearing Tuesday that “not having killed anyone during the eviction wasn’t what Mr. Vuon had expected” and so his appeal against the attempted murder conviction is rejected.

Mr. Vuon and several members of his family had established a thriving fish and prawn farm on 41 hectares of swampland they were granted by the government in 1993 near the port city of Haiphong, about 100 kilometers east of Hanoi. In 2007, the authorities informed the family they wanted the land back.

Instead of doing so, family members led by Mr. Vuon set up a perimeter around the lot, laying land mines and fashioning homemade guns to cement their claim to the farm. When a team of police and soldiers arrived to evict the family in January 2012, a gunfight began in which six security personnel were injured. Mr. Vuon and three members of his family were arrested.

The appeals court also upheld a five-year jail term for Mr. Vuon’s brother, Doan Van Quy, but reduced the terms for two other family members by between five and 19 months, the lawyer said.

“I had expected the appeals court would reduce the jail terms for all of my family members, but I’m sad that it didn’t happen,” Mr. Vuon’s wife Nguyen Thi Thuong said. The court upheld Mrs. Thuong’s probation term of 15 months.

Mr. Vuon’s sister-in-law Pham Thi Bau said she’s upset with the result of the appeals hearing, adding that “the result is unjust for my family.”

“Though the court upheld Mr. Vuon’s jail term, his resistance against the evicting force has helped him and other fish farmers in the area keep their farms, at least for now,” Mr. Hai said.

The Government Inspectorate of Vietnam was cited by state media as saying earlier this month that 70% of complaints and disputes lodged with the authorities in the first half of the year concerned land.

By Vu Trong Khanh & Nguyen Anh Thu - The Wall Street Journal - July 31, 2013