Vietnamese Buddhist monks sentenced to jail

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Two Vietnamese Buddhist monks in Hanoi were sentenced to three years in jail today for distributing anti-government literature and CDs.

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STR

Two Vietnamese monks, Nguyen Van Lia and Tran Hoai An, were arrested in April for distributing anti-government flyers and CDs. 

Today, they were sentenced to jail for up to three years on charges of "abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state," reported the Associated Press.

Lia, who is 71-years-old, denied the charges.

He and An are members of a Buddhist group known as Hoa Hoa.

According to the BBC, the group has almost four million followers in the country alone.

Although the sect is sanctioned by the state, some members of Hoa Hoa oppose the government.

In Vietnam, challenges against its single-party rule are not tolerated.

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When the two were arrested, reported the AP, "authorities found 15 books, 64 CDs and DVDs and 36 documents accusing the government of violating human rights and suppressing religious freedom."

Others, however, see it differently.

Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Human Rights Watch's Asia division, believed the sentence to be unnecessary:

“One wonders what exactly the government of Vietnam is so afraid of that an elderly man like Nguyen Van Lia, who has dedicated his life to religion, should frighten them so much that they feel they need to lock him away in prison."

The group also demanded Lia’s release and called the sentence “outrageous and unacceptable.”

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