HANOI (AFP) — A Vietnamese court on Monday handed suspended jail terms to four students for posting online a sex video clip of a popular TV soap star that caused a scandal and led to the axing of her show.
The four, aged 22 to 26, were found guilty of “disseminating debauched cultural products,” a charge that could have carried up to 10 years’ jail, in the closed-door trial in the capital Hanoi, a court official said.
Instead, the two male and two female students walked out of court after receiving suspended jail terms of 20 to 30 months each, a Hanoi People’s Court clerk told AFP, declining to give her name or provide further details.
The video clip, filmed on a mobile phone camera, showed actress Hoang Thuy Linh, now 20 years old, having sex with her boyfriend, who filmed the 16-minute clip last July and uploaded the file onto his laptop.
The boyfriend, Vu Hoang Viet, later lent his laptop to a friend, who copied the film and sent it on to several of his friends, who then posted it online, sparking an Internet sensation in Vietnam.
The clip quickly found its way onto video-sharing websites and was downloaded by countless computer users, while illegal DVDs of the film were hawked by vendors on streets and at petrol stations.
Linh, who was the lead actress in “Vang Anh’s Diary” — a nightly teenage drama show dealing with morality and lifestyle issues — found herself at the centre of a storm as angry parents called for her to be sacked.
State-run Vietnam Television within days broadcast an interview with Linh, who offered a tearful apology to her fans, and then scrapped the popular show.
Linh and her boyfriend Viet, the son of a senior Hanoi police official who is studying in the United States, did not face charges.
Defendant Nguyen Huu Tai, who edited and posted the clip on his website in mid-October, received a 30-month suspended jail term.
Vu Thi Thuy Linh and Vo Thanh Hiep received suspended terms of 24 months each and Nguyen Thu Linh received a suspended term of 20 months.
The four — who all spent 10 days in police detention after their arrests last year before being released on bail — will be on probation for periods twice as long as their suspended jail terms.
Sex education is considered a taboo topic in communist Vietnam and is not included in classroom instruction.