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Stiff prison term for Viet priest, democracy activist March 30, 2007

A Vietnamese Catholic priest has been sentenced to an 8-year prison term for "spreading propaganda against the socialist state."

Father Nguyen Van Ly-- a noted democracy activist who has already spent 14 years in prison-- was convicted in a 1-day trial.

In a break from regular practice, Vietnamese authorities allowed some press coverage of the proceedings, and reporters saw Father Ly expelled from the courtroom after he disrupted testimony by shouting, "Down with the Communist party!"

Father Ly gained international prominence in 2001 with a letter to a US congressional committee in which he detailed human-rights abuses in Vietnam and argued against American approval of a bilateral trade pact. He was arrested, tried, and sentenced to a 20-year jail term for what Hanoi authorities branded a traitorous act. The sentence was later reduced to 5 years, and he was released in 2005 as part of a Tet holiday amnesty program.

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