In Vietnam 13 activists accused of trying to overthrow the communist government have been handed jail sentences of up to 13 years.
A 14th member of the group has been put under house arrest.
They were arrested two years ago, but their trial took just two days, and sentencing went ahead despite their lawyer petitioning the United Nations, which had been seeking a response from the Vietnamese government.
The trial of the 14 activists is the largest subversion case to be prosecuted in Vietnam in years.
The defendants, who include Catholics, bloggers and students, have been accused of trying to overthrow the communist government and of participating in the banned Viet Tan or Vietnam Reform Party.
It's alleged that they had received training in nonviolent struggle and computer and internet security from the US-based pro-democracy party, labelled a terrorist organisation by Hanoi.
The Vietnamese Government often uses charges of spreading anti-state propaganda and attempting to overthrow the regime to stem dissent and political debate.
Hanoi has always deflected accusations that it has violated the rights of people to freedom of expression by maintaining that only lawbreakers are punished.
Professor Allen Weiner, senior lecturer in law at the Stanford Law School says Vietnam is using its courts and criminal laws as tools of repression.
"What they are doing, is that they have one statute that allows them to prosecute people who they judge have carried out activities aimed at overthrowing the people's administration and any political challenge or protest towards the single party government of Vietnam is simply construed as being an offence," he said.
"There's another criminal statute that involves conducting propaganda against the state.
"Now these are totally open ended and one cannot rely on one's domestic laws to simply flout international obligations."
Professor Weiner, who is counsellor to the 14 activists, has filed a petition on their behalf to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in Geneva, contesting what he calls their illegal arrest and detention.
The case is still under consideration, with Vietnam given time to reply to the allegations that it has failed to meet its international obligations to uphold its people's rights to expression, assembly and association.
Given Vietnam's practice of conducting brief court trials and quick sentencing of activists, dissidents often do not receive the protection of international laws.
Professor Weiner says the international community should put pressure on Vietnam to maintain its obligations.
"They should be wary about extending deeper economic cooperation and benefits to Vietnam when it engages in this kind of illegal actions," he said.
"That is another way perhaps in which Vietnam may be made to pay the price, or a price at least, for violating its obligations."
Professor Doan Viet Hoat, who spent 8 years in jail for producing an underground newsletter in the late 1980s has been living in exile in the US since 1998.
He says pressure must be put on Hanoi to improve its legal system.
"We should protest against them using the law to violate human rights, what I call legalisation of violation of human rights," he said.
"They create laws to oppress the people, so I think we should push for improvement of the legal system."
Since the government launched a fresh crackdown on free expression in late 2009, dozens of political activists have been sentenced to long prison terms - the last in September when three bloggers were jailed for alleged anti-state propaganda.
Professor Doan says the government may detain activists physically but not mentally.
He says the internet and social media have created two kinds of Vietnam, one on the ground and the other a virtual one.
"I think there is a virtual civil society now and the government and the dictators cannot control the virtual society although they tried to block the blogs and tried to put into jail some of the bloggers," he said.
"But I don't think that they can control the virtual society."
Professor Weiner says while the internet has created greater awareness among the people as to what's happening within the country, for those who dare to comment on what they think about their government, long jail terms await.