|This picture taken by the Vietnam News Agency shows Vu Duc Trung (C, first row), and Le Van Thanh (C, second row) (AFP/Vietnam News Agency)|
HANOI — Vietnam on Thursday jailed two Falungong practitioners for beaming radio broadcasts into China, their lawyer said, where the movement is banned and labelled an "evil cult".
Vu Duc Trung, 31, received a three-year sentence and his brother-in-law Le Van Thanh, 36, was sentenced to two years, said the lawyer, Tran Dinh Trien.
The hearing in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi lasted about half a day.
The pair were charged in connection with "Sound of Hope" programmes transmitted into China via shortwave radio starting in April 2009, according to the Falungong's press office, the Falun Dafa Information Center in New York.
"Sound of Hope's programmes typically report on human rights abuses, corruption, and repression of Falungong practitioners and other persecuted groups," Falun Dafa added.
Trien said his clients, who have been in custody since June 2010, were convicted under the penal code for illegally diffusing information on a telecommunication network.
"I said Vietnam does not have any law that bans Falungong, so we cannot put them on trial," he told AFP.
On Tuesday more than 40 followers of the movement were detained after gathering outside the Chinese embassy in Hanoi for a silent protest ahead of the trial for their two colleagues, Falun Dafa said.
The "repression" violated their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, a separate statement from Amnesty International said.
Police told AFP that all were later released.
Officials roped off the footpath outside the court building on Thursday, preventing possible gatherings.
Falun Dafa said Vietnamese Falungong are under increased "harassment... following direct Chinese Communist Party pressure".
There was no immediate comment from Beijing's embassy or communist Vietnam's foreign ministry.
Vietnam says it has achieved significant progress on human rights.
Falungong's Buddhist-inspired teachings focus on meditative, martial arts-like exercises. The group says its practitioners are treated brutally or even killed in China.
Hanoi has previously denied that Falungong exists in the country, but Falun Dafa said earlier this year that several hundred practitioners were in Vietnam.
Relations with China are a sensitive matter in Vietnam, where many people bitterly recall 1,000 years of Chinese occupation.