Thu, May 15, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Democracy activists jailed on terrorism charges in Vietnam

AFP , HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM

Three pro-democracy activists, including a US citizen, were handed jail terms of up to nine months on terrorism charges in a trial held under tight security on Tuesday.

The three, all linked to a US-based party banned in Vietnam, were accused of “inciting riots threatening the national security” of the country by distributing leaflets.

“All the three defendants are guilty of terrorism offenses,” presiding judge Vu Phi Long said after the brief trial.

They “planned to distribute a huge number of leaflets inciting riots ... threatening the security of the state,” he added.

US citizen Nguyen Quoc Quan, 55, was sentenced to six months and ordered deported after serving his sentence.

He was expected to leave Vietnam in the coming days as he has already spent nearly six months in jail since being detained on Nov.17.

Vietnamese activist Nguyen The Vu, 31, was sentenced to five months and 26 days, which allowed him to leave prison on Tuesday.

The third defendant, Nguyen Hai, 57, was handed a nine-month sentence and will remain behind bars for a further three months.

A US embassy spokeswoman welcomed Nguyen Quoc Quan’s release, but expressed disappointment with the terrorism charge.

“We are not aware of any information that would support charges of ‘terrorism’ against Nguyen Quoc Quan,” the spokeswoman said. “We object to the detention and prosecution of any individual for peacefully expressing his or her own views.”

About 100 police were deployed around the courthouse in the southern hub of Ho Chi Minh City, where foreign media were allowed to follow the proceedings on closed-circuit television.

The trio, all accused of being members of Viet Tan (Vietnam Reform Party) — regularly called a “terrorist” organization by the authorities — were arrested in November after arriving in Ho Chi Minh City, state media said.

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