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A Vietnamese writer jailed for ten years in June for publishing an essay about democracy on the Internet has had his sentence halved.

The Supreme Court of Appeal in Hanoi cut 35 year-old Pham Hong Son's jail term following pressure from the international community including Governments and human rights groups.

Despite this many onlookers insist the sentence is too severe and have described the whole episode as a "sham".

A spokesman for the US Embassy in Vietnam told Reuters that while the reduction was welcomed, Pham Hong Son should never have been jailed in the first place.

Pham Hong Son was arrested in March 2002 for using the Internet to communicate with others and publish articles on democracy.

Police raided his home and confiscated computers and documents. When he published an open letter on the Net protesting against the heavy-handed treatment he disappeared.

It was more than a week before his family learned that he had been arrested, without a warrant.

According to Human Rights Watch, Pham Hong Son is the fifth dissident in the last year to be arrested and charged with crimes relating to email communication or other Internet activity. ®

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