HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — A Vietnamese court has sentenced three women who held up the flags of the defeated U.S.-backed South Vietnam to up to four years in prison on charges of spreading anti-state propaganda, media reported Wednesday.
The women were convicted of holding anti-state banners, the flags and chanting anti-state slogans outside the United State diplomatic mission in Ho Chi Minh City in July 2014, Thanh Nien newspaper reported.
Their trial lasted half a day Wednesday. Ngo Thi Minh Uoc, 57, got four years, and Nguyen Thi Tri and Nguyen Thi Be Hai, both 58, were given three years in prison by the People's Court in Ho Chi Minh City.
The newspaper said the three were also given two years of house arrest after serving their sentences.
It quoted the verdict as saying their action was "very serious, infringing on national security, distorting, instigating, causing suspicion and mistrust of the people in the (Communist) Party and state."
Such open defiance of the government involving waving the flags of former South Vietnam in the former capital of Saigon is extremely rare.
The three women previously had been fined for disturbing public order by participating in illegal protests, it said.
The sentences came a week after a court in Hanoi sentenced a prominent blogger to five years in prison for posting anti-state writings.
International human rights groups and the U.S. and other governments often criticize Vietnam for jailing dissidents, but Hanoi maintains that it only punishes only those who break the law.