Vietnam court rejects anti-graft journalist appeal

A Vietnamese court Thursday upheld a four-year jail sentence for an anti-corruption journalist, rejecting an appeal against his conviction for bribing police during an undercover investigation.

Hoang Khuong, 39, a reporter with the official Tuoi Tre newspaper, was convicted in September of paying 15 million dong ($715) to a traffic police officer, through a broker, in return for the release of an impounded motorbike.

His arrest and conviction caused public outcry in communist Vietnam and attracted international concern.

It prompted a debate about the state of local journalism, with many experts warning the charges would deter reporters from tackling corruption.

The court in Ho Chi Minh City threw out Khuong's plea saying they had "no grounds to consider the defendant's appeal", according to defence lawyer Phan Trung Hoai.

"Khuong was rearrested right after the appeal trial. He had been freed on bail for some days" for his mother's funeral, Hoai told AFP.

The traffic policeman who accepted the bribe was given five years in jail at the pair's joint trial in southern Ho Chi Minh City. His appeal was also rejected Thursday.

Khuong told the court in September that he would not be behind bars if he had not written the articles.

"I had no other motive than to help efforts to reduce the number of traffic accidents" by exposing police corruption, he said.

Traffic police are one of the top four "most corrupt" sectors in Vietnam, according to a survey published in November by the government inspectorate and the World Bank.

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