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Ashton calls for release of Vietnam bloggers

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(BRUSSELS) - European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Monday called for the immediate release of three Vietnamese bloggers sentenced to stiff jail terms for "anti-state propaganda".

A statement from Ashton's office said she expressed her "serious concern" and believed the "sentences in this case appear to be particularly severe."

High-profile blogger Nguyen Van Hai, alias Dieu Cay, was sentenced to 12 years by a court in southern Vietnam while Ta Phong Tan, a policewoman-turned-dissident whose mother self-immolated to protest her detention, was given 10 years.

Phan Thanh Hai, the only one of the trio to plead guilty, was handed a four-year term after promising "not to commit the crime again and to have no further contact with anti-state people," he told the court.

"The EU recalls the fundamental right of all persons to hold and freely express their opinions in a peaceful manner," the EU statement said.

Ashton "calls on Vietnam to respect its international obligations and to release the convicted bloggers immediately," it added.

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