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HANOI (Reuters) - A court in Vietnam on Friday upheld a nine-year jail sentence for a prominent activist convicted of spreading propaganda against the state, her lawyer said.

Blogger Tran Thi Nga, 40, was initially found guilty at a trial in July, six months after she was arrested in a widening crackdown on critics of the Communist government.

Despite sweeping economic reform and increasing openness towards social change, the ruling party retains tight media censorship and does not tolerate criticism.

Nga's sentence of nine years in prison and five years probation was upheld by a court in the central city of Nha Trang, one of her lawyers said.

"Nga said she was innocent and was not guilty of propaganda against the state," lawyer Ha Huy Son told Reuters by telephone.

Court officials were not immediately available for comment. Nga's family did not have access to the hearing.

The U.S. embassy said it was deeply troubled by the court's decision and that everyone in Vietnam should be able to express their political views without fear.

"The United States calls on Vietnam to release Tran Thi Nga and all other prisoners of conscience immediately," U.S. Embassy spokesman Pope Thrower said.

In November, a Vietnamese court upheld a 10-year jail sentence for another prominent blogger, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, known as "Me Nam", or Mother Mushroom, who was jailed for publishing propaganda against the state.

(Editing by Robert Birsel and Robin Pomeroy)

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Reuters