Vietnam jails two dissident songwriters

A soldier stands guard in front of late president Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum, 22 October, 2012 Rights groups have criticised Vietnam for the detention of the musicians

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Vietnam has jailed two musicians for spreading anti-state propaganda, after they wrote songs critical of government policy.

Tran Vu Anh Binh and Vo Minh Tri were both convicted by a court in Ho Chi Minh City and sentenced to six and four years in prison respectively.

Detained in late 2011, the two were sentenced after a five-hour trial.

Ahead of the trial, rights group Amnesty International described their treatment as "ludicrous".

As well as social issues, their work included songs that criticised China over its territorial claims in the South China Sea and the Vietnamese government's handling of the row.

Beijing and Hanoi have overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea and tensions between the two nations have been rumbling for months.

'Disturbing trend'

In a statement on Monday Amnesty International called for the songwriters' release.

"This is a ludicrous way to treat people just for writing songs,'' said Rupert Abbott, the group's researcher on Vietnam.

''These men are prisoners of conscience, detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression through their songs and non-violent activities, and should be freed."

The sentencing comes weeks after three bloggers accused of spreading anti-government propaganda were jailed for between four and 12 years.

''There is a very disturbing trend of repression against those who peacefully voice opinions the Vietnamese authorities do not like," said Mr Abbott.

The Communist Party is currently riven by factional splits over corruption and mismanagement of a now shaky economy, and so is very sensitive to criticism, says the BBC's South East Asia correspondent Jonathan Head.

Earlier this month, the party was forced to issue a public apology for the behaviour of some officials who have become very wealthy during the recent boom years.

But the jailing of songwriters shows it will not tolerate ordinary citizens drawing attention to its failings, our correspondent adds.

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