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HANOI (Reuters) - A court in Vietnam on Tuesday jailed an activist for 13 years, followed by five years on probation, for threatening the survival of the state, police said, just days after six others were sentenced on the same charge.
Despite sweeping economic and social reform in Vietnam, the ruling Communist Party retains tight media censorship and does not tolerate criticism. It has been stepping up sentencing and arrests of activists and handing them longer jail terms.
Nguyen Van Tuc, 53, was sentenced for posting anti-Communist content online and joining rights groups the government has declared illegal or terrorist, activities that "threaten the survival of the state," police in Thai Binh province said.
He was charged with "conducting activities aiming at overthrowing the people's administration," the police said on their website.
Tuc, detained since last September, had previously received a four-year jail term and three years of probation from 2008 for "propaganda against the state of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam", the police added.
New York-based Human Rights Watch urged the government to drop the charges and free Tuc.
"The government should recognise that Nguyen Van Tuc has done nothing he should be imprisoned for, drop the charges against him, and ensure his immediate release," said Phil Robertson, the group's deputy director in Asia.
Vietnam this month jailed human rights lawyer and activist Nguyen Van Dai for 15 years on the grounds that he "aimed at overthrowing the people's administration", while five more activists were jailed for seven to 12 years.
The six were affiliated with a group called the Brotherhood for Democracy, of which Tuc is a senior member.
Police in Thai Binh, which is 100 km (62 miles) southeast of the capital, Hanoi, also said Tuc joined U.S.-based group Viet Tan, which Vietnam regards as a "terrorist" body.
Brotherhood for Democracy provided training about human rights and democracy, joined in anti-China and pro-environment protests, helped victims of natural disasters and gave legal help to arrested activists, Robertson said in a statement.
"The reality is the court will do whatever the government authorities orders it to, showing just how fake these trial proceedings really are," Robertson added.
On their website, Thai Binh police said the court proceeded in accordance with the law and regulations, while security and order were ensured.
(Editing by Clarence Fernandez)