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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 June, 2003, 12:48 GMT 13:48 UK
Vietnam net dissident jailed
Internet surfing in Vietnam
The government is keeping a close eye on internet use

A Vietnamese doctor accused of spying and using the internet to spread criticism of the government has been sentenced to 13 years in jail.

The court in Hanoi also ruled Pham Hong Son should be kept under house arrest for three years after serving his prison sentence.

He was arrested 2002, after publishing an online feature entitled What Is Democracy? from the US State Department's website.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists say the trial is part of the Vietnamese Government's campaign against intellectuals and dissidents who use the internet to circulate news or opinion banned from the tightly-controlled state press.

The prosecution said Mr Son had been in contact with what it called "political opportunists" and "reactionary forces overseas".

Mr Son was also accused of collecting money from abroad for dissidents.

The trial was held under tight security and on Wednesday foreign diplomats were barred from entering the court.

Two dissidents were jailed last year for cyberspace criticism of the communist government.

About a million Vietnamese out of an 80-million-strong population are estimated to have regular access to the web, mainly through internet cafes.

But in 2002, the government tightened regulations on the internet by requiring websites to be licensed and restricted access.

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