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An appeals court in Vietnam has upheld the jail sentences for three bloggers convicted of creating public disorder after they attempted to visit a former political prisoner.

Bui Thi Minh Hang, Nguyen Van Minh and Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh will remain in jail after a court in the southern province of Dong Thap rejected their appeal Dec. 12, news outlets including Radio Free Asia said. The three had been sentenced to between two and three years in jail after allegedly obstructing traffic while trying to visit the former political political prisoner in February. Eighteen others were arrested at the time and released the next day, the Voice of America reported.

Families of the bloggers were not allowed to attend the hearing. According to local media, nearly 20 protesters were taken into custody while demonstrating outside the courthouse.

Advocacy groups including the International Federation for Human Rights condemned the decision. “The conviction of Bui Thi Minh Hang, Nguyen Van Minh, and Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh is a stark reminder of the absence of an independent judiciary in Vietnam,” said Karim Lahidji, president of the group, in a statement. “The three must be immediately released and provided adequate compensation for their unjust imprisonment.”

Vietnam has been criticized for breaking human rights and repressing press freedom. According to the Reporters Without Borders, 34 Vietnamese bloggers are currently in jail.

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